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FMA’s Tech Mania Provides Hands-On STEM Insights

More than 120 ninth grade students participated in hands-on STEM-related demonstrations during the Fort Meade Alliance’s (FMA) Tech Mania, held last week at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Catonsville (CCBC) campus.

Representatives from Leidos and Lockheed Martin Corp., in addition to CCBC staff from various departments, provided students with insights to spark their curiosity and encourage their interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“This was a great experience for the students,” said Penny Cantwell, FMA Education and Workforce Development Chair. “We are truly grateful for the partnership with CCBC, as well as the dedication from the volunteers from CCBC, Leidos and Lockheed Martin to make this event such a success.”

Students from Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll Counties rotated through five hands-on presentations designed to give the students an in-depth look at STEM-based programs and to meet professionals who have a clear understanding of STEM.  The students experienced a wide variety throughout the morning-long session.

Lockheed Martin demonstrated how software defined radio systems work and how to identify the wavelength and amplitudes of transmissions sent on different frequencies. Students played a game of “Whack-a-Signal” where they were given a keyboard and they had to hit the correct key to match the frequency being transmitted on the screen.

Leidos hosted a mini Capture the Flag session to demonstrate how computers are hacked and the importance of having a good computer security system. Students got into teams and were given a community password shared by all of the computers. Each team was tasked with attempting to “hack” into the other teams’ computers and lock them out.

At CCBC’s aviation department, students experienced what it’s like to fly two different types of planes, a helicopter and work in the Air Traffic Control tower both during the day and also at night.

CCBC’s FabLab gave students an insight into 3-D printers, laser cutters and CNC machinery as well as the computer software that is used to create virtually any type of object. At the end of each session, students received a Pokemon figurine created from the FabLab’s 3-D printer.

The CCBC Transportation Technology Center demonstrated how modern automotive engine management systems can be used to run diagnostic tests and repair and operate vehicles. The system was used to perform a series of tests on a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette that is currently being worked on in their shop.

The FMA created Tech Mania in 2008 when the organization identified the need to encourage area students to pursue careers in STEM fields.  Since its inception, more than 2,000 students from several central Maryland counties have received hands-on exposure to career opportunities from prominent businesses, federal agencies, and colleges in the region.

Tech Mania is held twice a year, in the Fort Meade region in the fall and in Baltimore County in the spring.

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