Every child has the potential to become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) leader. The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) is committed to helping children realize their potential, and build their confidence and skills in STEM. Over the past 12 years, AEOP has partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® to provide scholarships for underserved students to attend Camp Invention® and benefit from this K-6 summer program’s innovative approach to STEM exploration.
Supporting a Shared Mission
AEOP provides accessible opportunities to attract, develop and mentor the next generation of our nation’s diverse STEM talent. According to Brian Leftridge, AEOP STEM program manager in the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, it “envisions a nation of STEM-inspired changemakers, problem solvers and innovators prepared to solve the country’s biggest challenges.”
This vision aligns with the aims of the Camp Invention program. As Leftridge explained, camp “makes STEM learning approachable and accessible – not to mention fun – for our youngest learners, sparking an early and lasting interest in STEM.”
Since 2011, AEOP has generously provided nearly $4 million in funding for Camp Invention scholarships, helping nearly 20,000 underserved children across the country to participate in this one-of-a-kind learning opportunity alongside their peers.
Through this partnership, AEOP strives to empower as many children as possible, helping them to build skills for a successful future. Whether they pursue a path in STEM or in any other field, skills including communication, critical thinking, problem solving and perseverance prepare all children to become active and engaged citizens.
These skills are best developed by providing children with hands-on learning experiences and introducing them to diverse, relatable role models like the National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees who directly inspire each year’s all-new Camp Invention curriculum.
“Role models make education and career paths real for children, opening the door for what is possible,” Leftridge said. “When a child meets someone who looks like them and has a career in a field they are interested in, it is an incredibly validating experience, particularly for a young person just beginning their STEM journey.”
Making Gains in Education
Both the National Inventors Hall of Fame and AEOP firmly believe in providing programs that help young people develop the confidence to envision themselves as future inventors or engineers. As Leftridge pointed out, “STEM can be intimidating. AEOP wants to break down the barrier and create a future where young people everywhere have access to programs that not only spark an interest in STEM, but build confidence and support development.”
AEOP sponsors scholarships for Camp Invention sites in the same locations as its Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program.
“GEMS is a free summer STEM experience for fifth- to 12th-grade students held in a professional laboratory environment,” explained Leftridge. “Similar to Camp Invention, GEMS aims to interest young people, who might not otherwise give serious thought to becoming scientists or engineers, in STEM careers early enough that they have the time to attain the appropriate academic training.”
All rising fifth through 12th graders who are either U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent legal residents are encouraged to apply for GEMS. This free opportunity, which takes place in participating U.S. Army research laboratories and engineering centers, offers an educational stipend of $125 per week to offset the cost of food or travel expenses.
In addition to GEMS, AEOP offers exciting initiatives like “Junior Solar Sprint,” in which students in grades 5-8 compete to create the fastest, most interesting and best crafted solar vehicle, and eCYBERMISSION, an online STEM competition in which students in grades 6-9 choose a problem in their community to explore with science or solve with engineering.
By providing these innovative opportunities and sponsoring Camp Invention scholarships, AEOP is “supporting youth with a pathway of STEM programming that starts in kindergarten and continues until they graduate high school and even into adulthood.”
Learn More and Apply for GEMS Today
Students entering grades 5 through 12 – and especially those who have attended Camp Invention – will enjoy taking the next step in their innovative journeys by participating in GEMS. To learn more about AEOP and GEMS and to get involved today, visit the official website.