On Friday April 14th the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) hosted its first half-day in-person Tech Mania event since the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, more than 100 students from four area high schools — Chesapeake High, Glen Burnie High, North County High and South River High — participated in the STEM-related field trip, which took place at Anne Arundel Community College at Arundel Mills. The FMA coordinated interactive STEM-related presentations from organizations throughout the Fort Meade community including Anne Arundel Community College, BigBear.ai, Learning Undefeated/Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
“FMA is ecstatic to have brought this program back to an in-person environment to give students the full impact of interactive and hands-on technology,” said Doreen Harwood, FMA Education and Workforce Chair.
Anne Arundel Community College’s presentation featured Mechatronics. The students worked in pairs to write code for their “robotic car” and had the opportunity to test out the code before completing the final competition. The cars that made it around all the corners to the finish line — without hitting walls — won. The students were eager to test out their code and repeatedly ran back to their desks to tweak and adjust it.
One of the next presentations from BigBear.ai gave students an overview of the architecture of a satellite. They were challenged with questions like: How could a cyber threat access satellites? What could a cyber threat do once the satellite is compromised? Students learned about new and emerging fields in cybersecurity such as space, medical, automotive, and other cyber-physical systems.
The presentation from Learning Undefeated/Northrop Grumman focused on cyber-attacks and hacking. Tablets were provided for the students to investigate an attempted hacking. They reviewed multiple suspect social media accounts for clues on who made the threat. The students worked in pairs to try to solve the hacking attempt, as well as learn the importance of using secure passwords and other security best practices for online accounts.
Lockheed Martin introduced the students to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony as an introduction to Software Defined Radio (SDR) and omnipresent radio frequency (RF) signals. The students identified emitters by using the RTL-SDR to detect the signals from hidden “black box” emitters. The students then got to play a game of “Spectrum Whack-a-Mole” where they used a keyboard to try to match the channel when they see the pulse to see their response on the screen.
Whiting-Turner showed students the importance of technology in construction from special software to create 3d models to virtual reality. They showcased how video game reenactment, virtual reality and augmented reality help architects and designers work with construction companies in the design of a building. Using their cell phones, students toured a building to find clues to solve a riddle.