Students took the controls to operate robots and other technologies at hands-on displays during the RET Days event at Macomb Community College. They talked to technical experts at seven pods to learn more about practical uses for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills.
TARDEC Communications Staff
The latest Robotics, Engineering and Technology (RET) Days event gave TARDEC another opportunity to motivate students to wonder about their high-tech future and kindle their interest in technical careers that will be critically needed to keep the nation both economically and militarily strong.
With participation from more than 1,500 area students, RET Days was held Dec. 3-5 at Macomb Community College (MCC) in Warren to offer hands-on demonstrations of robotics, hybrid vehicle technology, electric vehicle components and renewable energy.
TARDEC teamed with The Center for Advanced Automotive Technology, Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD), and Lawrence Tech to coordinate RET Days at MCC's Sports and Exposition Center. Students met technological experts at several stations, or pods, to participate in interactive displays of robotics, electronics, ground vehicles and other technologies. In the process, the event's hosts demonstrated how STEM skills can be applied.
TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers, one of the event's keynote speakers, urged students not to look at the robots in the exhibits as finished items, but instead to think about innovative new uses for robots or how they could make them better.
"Take it as a kernel of thought and something to excite you and let you consider what you could bring to your own world, to your community and to the nation," Rogers said. "If you walk away inspired, if you walk away a little enthused, if you walk away wondering why, or why not, then this whole event was well worth it, and I hope that happens for you today."
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By supporting events such as RET Days, along with science and robotics competitions, for students from elementary school up to college, TARDEC emphasizes the importance of increasing STEM graduates who could fill positions at TARDEC, the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) and other Research, Development and Engineering Command laboratories. This effort is consistent with White House objectives to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees by 1 million during this decade.
The Department of Commerce has estimated that STEM occupations will grow 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations from 2008–2018. In order to meet these workforce needs, the United States will need around 1 million more STEM professionals than are projected to graduate over the next decade, according to the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.
TARDEC supports STEM outreach events throughout the year, such as the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) for college students, FIRST Robotics for high school students, and eCybermission for middle-schoolers.
Addressing about 400 middle and high school students at the RET Days opening, Rogers shared his own story about how his career vision fundamentally changed as he prepared to enter high school in northern Michigan.
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"My advisor told me: 'Paul, you're really not cut out for college. You should go into the skilled trades and find a career path there and make a living,'" Rogers related. "Luckily, my neighbor worked at the high school and saw the classes I had signed up to take. She called my mother, and everything changed. They changed all my coursework for high school to put me on track for college. You heard my synopsis and you know that I was in college forever and got my Ph.D. in engineering."
Rogers advised the students to set their own educational course and never stop learning.
"Learning is a lifetime sport — you will be learning every day of your life." Rogers commented. "Don't ever give up on learning — it will make you a much better person and a more successful person. I've been doing it forever and I'm still reading and learning. I want you to have that same experience."