The Liberty Science Center, a wonderful and enjoyable learning compound, was crowded to capacity with school groups, adults and individual families. Upon entering this massive building and the spectacular settings of the myriad of levels within its interior; one can glance in passing, the abundance of educational exhibits, interactive experiences, professional teachers, instructors and visiting professionals.
Elated children buzzed and ran from one exhibit to another, certainly overloaded with scientific stimuli that the LSC displayed. A few of the huge selection of exhibits included: The Science of Pizza’s epic pizza party with all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a Dino fossil dig, 3D Science Theater, and various additional movies and lectures aimed towards STEM and other educational programming. One such STEM program held at the LSC on this day, was the Picatinny Arsenal Symposium.
Located in northern New Jersey Highlands, Picatinny Arsenal is a leader in STEM research and development as it pertains to weapons systems and “conventional ammunition for joint warfighters”. PA also employees more than 6,000 personnel from all branches of the military.
The Picatinny Arsenal team present at this event were General Engineer, Delfin Quijano, Canadian Army Captain, Thomas W. Murphy, Chemical Engineer, Giuseppe L. Di Benedetto, Laboratory Director, Ralph C. Tillinghast, Mechanical Engineer, Joanna Bonfiglio, General Engineer and Astronomer, Lucian M. Sadowski, Chemical Engineer, Stacey L. Yauch, Senior Chemical Engineer Mohamed Elalem, Mechanical Engineer, Ramsey Yucan and Picatinny PAO, Audra Calloway. Additional participants and volunteers were, Liberty Science Center Special Events Director, Laurel Barbot, and LSC Senior Event Coordinator, Lauren Bowman. This Picatinny Arsenal forum, was centered in a large conference room with equally large round tables as well as, smaller rooms for interactive demonstrations.
Joanna Bonfiglio, the only woman in the field of mechanical engineering at ARDEC, works at Picatinny and was formerly a student at The City College of New York in Harlem. Ms. Bonfiglio commented that there is the need for more women to pursue the fascinating field of mechanical engineering. She also shared why she was present at this occasion and which interactive demonstration she is continuing to develop and refine.
Ms. Bonfiglio states, “I brought in bold ultrasonic testing units. One was set up to look for wall thickness, the other was set up to look at defects in metal. Something that’s really important in our mission is that if someone is brave enough to represent the United States Army (in the military), we use technology to look for flaws in metal to make sure that whatever parts they are being given will always function as intended, and not fail. Also, these parts will not harm the operator or surrounding personnel. We have inspecting components to make sure that they are the right size and that they are free of defects that could cause failure”.
The Picatinny Arsenal Symposium was occupied by over 150 students from various schools such as: Saint Mark the Evangelist, located in the Harlem village in New York City and the East Orange STEM, East Orange Campus, Newark Charter School and Union City High School, the latter, all located in New Jersey. These schools are teaming with bright, intelligent and enthusiastic children and their respective brilliant and dedicated teachers and volunteers.
David Ellis, Library Technical Coordinator and Amanda Williams, science teacher at Saint Marks the Evangelist School in Harlem, praised the work and efforts of the adult participants in raising awareness of the necessity of STEM in underrepresented communities. Barbara Froehlich, a computer science and engineering teacher represented the East Orange STEM Academy and Picatinny STEM outreach volunteer and advisor Ann Suzette Burnett represented the ECybermission.
Also present at the Picatinny Arsenal Symposium and interacting with the children during the demonstrations, were Terry Hart, Command Sergeant Major Wright and Captain Thomas Murphy.
Terry Hart, a winner of the Rutgers Distinguished Alumnus Award and the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal was the symposiums keynote speaker. A former fighter pilot and NASA Astronaut, Terry Hart has a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University. A video was presented, documenting Hart and fellow crew members in space, retrieving, repairing and re-releasing into orbit a broken Solar Maximum Satellite. This major feat of engineering was done while aboard the Challenger in 1984. Mr. Hart continues to teach aerospace engineering at Lehigh University.
Major Hudene Wright encouraged the students during the demonstrations. She stated, “Picatinny is a big sponsor and supporter of the STEM events and activities. We try to participate in every opportunity that we are given to include the National Competition that we just had in St. Louis, Missouri. We are always there to represent and support this great thing that they are doing. We’re thankful for all of our engineers and scientists that dedicate their hours outside of work to support the children. It is a great program all around”.
Captain Thomas Murphy is an army officer on exchange at Picatinny. Murphy works with the Advanced Materials Technology Branch and is also a mentor for one of the FRC (First Robotics Competition) team. Murphy states, “the team out of Union City 340, was our team. They did well this year and they are here to see some of the work that we do at Picatinny”.
The children at this Picatinny Arsenal sponsored symposium were also guided toward learning other STEM related advancements by the many PA employees during this day of interactive discoveries. Lunch and prizes were awarded, much to the children’s delight.
The considerable life experiences and education garnered and introduced by the Picatinny Arsenal employees, volunteers and supporting adults, magnified the children’s imaginations and the far reaching possibilities and realities of the present and future applications of STEM.
These educated leaders presented the school children with classes, exhibitions and hands-on experiments of several aspects of how STEM combine to create sophisticated advancements in areas of tactical technology that effect our country, America, and all the world.