Ten Years of Summer STEM

Ten Years of Summer STEM

March 20, 2020

This summer, the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program at Fort Detrick, Maryland, will celebrate a decade of educating and exciting students with hands-on experiments and activities. The Fort Detrick GEMS program is held at Hood College.

GEMS is a summertime enrichment program focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines that takes place at all U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) laboratories across the Nation.

The mission of the GEMS program is to attract, inspire, and develop exceptional STEM talent as a means to grow and enrich the current and future Department of Defense (DOD) workforce in order to meet burgeoning defense technological challenges. The program places particular focus on young people who might not otherwise give serious thought to becoming scientists or engineers so they can obtain proper academic training early in their educational careers.

GEMS provides a continuum of classes and internship opportunities from elementary through adult age ranges; the latter of which can serve as resource teachers. As they progress through the program, students who attend the classes can graduate to become Assistant Near Peers, Near Peers, and then finally opt to enter the DOD workforce via Army Educational Outreach Program opportunities such as College Qualified Leaders, ORISE, as direct hires or as Army personnel.

The Fort Detrick GEMS program will take place this summer from June 29 - August 13. Classes will take place from Monday to Thursday, and end with a graduation ceremony in which students receive a stipend to offset food and transportation costs incurred over the course of the program. Students are selected to participate in classes for one week only and may not participate in the same class twice.

Fort Detrick offers the following exciting classes for students:

The application window is open until April 30, 2020!

*Note: Grade levels are current, Spring 2020 grade levels*


  • 4th and 5th Grade
  • Students dissect a squid and write their names with the dissected ink sac. In addition, students learn about pollution, learn how to protect a city by building dams and riparian buffers, build a water filter, build a solar oven, and study the reaction of vinegar eels to various pollutants under a microscope.


  • 5th and 6th Grade
  • Students work in small teams to both build and "train" a robot to complete in a robot "boot camp." The assembled robots will complete a ruck march, an obstacle course, compete in hand-to-hand combat, and even attempt to survive an airplane drop.


  • 6th and 7th Grade
  • Students solve a murder mystery by analyzing hair and fiber samples, and by studying blood typing, blood splatter, mystery powders, and DNA left at the crime scene by the perpetrator.

Learn. Play. Code

  • 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th Grade
  • Students study coding using a free block-based coding application called Scratch that was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Students learn to code various characters, called sprites, in order to make a music band, tell a story, develop a side-scrolling video game, and other various applications.


  • 7th and 8th Grade
  • Students study the presence of the bacteria Wolbachia in insects by collecting them, dissecting them, and analyzing their DNA with molecular biology techniques. In addition, students also build and launch a rocket.


  • 9th and 10th , and 11th Grade
  • Students train an autonomous robot to complete various Army-inspired tasks such as an obstacle course, a rescue mission, and bomb removal.


  • 9th, 10th, and 11th Grade
  • Students dissect a fetal pig and learn suturing techniques. In addition, students analyze DNA from their own cheek cells to see if they are carriers of the PTC gene (the gene for bitter taste)

Assistant Near Peer Mentors

  • Students in grades 11th and 12th who have successfully completed at least one of the upper-level GEMS courses and/or are enrolled in specialized biomedical or STEM technical curriculum via their high school.
  • GEMS Assistant Near Peers (ANPs) assist college students (Near Peers) during a four week internship (length of time may vary by location). ANPs are expected to be leaders in the classroom that can demonstrate responsibility, organization, and presentation skills. ANPs will participate in a week-long training course along with Near Peer Mentors and, additionally, Army scientists and engineers. Throughout the week, they will hone their laboratory techniques and learn new curriculum. ANPs are expected to be able to both teach and assist with curriculum as well as to help prep labs for the day without major supervision.

Near Peer Mentors

  • College Students
  • Summer internship opportunity that allows college students to work alongside Army research scientists and make amazing career connections while giving back to their community.
  • Near Peer Mentors work collaboratively with resource teachers, USAMRDC scientists, and engineers to provide instruction and to engage with students in inquiry-based, hands-on lab activities. Applicants must be U.S. citizens.
  • Prior to the scheduled day camps, Near Peer Mentors will receive training and collaborate with the primary instructors. During the day camp, Near Peer Mentors will interact with elementary, middle, and high school participants by assisting and/or leading task assignments to include: laboratory experiments, coding, and robotics. Near Peers are assigned to a specific class. Near Peer Mentors should be majoring in either STEM or education disciplines that are familiar with one or more of the following topics:
    • DNA Analysis
    • Robotics
    • Block Coding
    • Python
    • Blood Typing
    • Micro Pipetting
    • Electrophoresis
    • Experience with tutoring, working as a camp counselor, babysitting, or serving as a troop leader or sports coach (or similar) is preferred

Resource Teachers

  • Current Teachers with a STEM background preferred.
  • Assist in implementing the program and training the Near Peer Mentors. Provide adult supervision and educational techniques.

Apply today by visiting https://www.usaeop.com/program/frederick/ and get started on a summer of fun!

Last Modified Date: 2 April 2020