MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The 2008 Director of Defense Research and Engineering’s Wearable Power Prize competition hosted a kid’s day at Del Valle Field Oct. 3.
More than 300 children and teenagers from Twentynine Palms High School, Condor Elementary School and Palm Vista Elementary School in Twentynine Palms, Calif., immersed themselves in demonstrations of the newest, cutting-edge technology for today’s warfighters.
The idea of the kid’s day came from Karen Burrows, DDR&E program manager.
“It’s important that we do an outreach program for kids to introduce them to science and engineering to get them interested,” said Burrows, a Fort Washington, Md., native. “If it wasn’t for outreach programs, I wouldn’t have gotten interested and become an engineer myself. We need to make sure we sustain the population of scientists and engineers in the years to come.”
After students got settled on the Del Valle Field bleachers, Dr. William S. Rees Jr., deputy under secretary of Defense for Laboratories and Basic Sciences, gave an overview of the intent behind the development of the technologies students would see that day.
After the brief, students were divided into groups and spread throughout the field to look at the technology showcase demonstrations.
Among the demonstrations, students learned about devices such as the portable ventilator, a medical tool that delivers consistent air flow to the lungs of a non-breathing patient.
Students also learned about heating and cooling clothing that regulates the temperature of the wearer, propelled robots that operate underwater, optic visual devices that connect to helmets, and re-enforced computers that can withstand the elements in the field.
Static displays of two up-armored humvees, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a 7-ton truck and a light armored vehicle were present to grant students a chance to climb aboard and explore the interiors of the vehicles.
Midway through the day, the students gathered under a tent to eat lunch and receive Meals, Ready-to-Eat as souvenirs.
Amanda Gonzalez, an 11th-grader at Twentynine Palms High School, said her favorite display in the showcase was the temperature-regulating clothing.
“I think the heated vest was really cool,” said the Austin, Texas, native. “It calibrates to your body’s heat without pressing any buttons, and it doesn’t get too hot.”
Sabrina Olsen, fellow 11th-grader at the high school, said she found the cooling vests even more interesting.
“I think the cooling vest is a great idea, especially out in the desert where it’s hot,” said the Twentynine Palms native. “All you needed to do was add a little water and it got surprisingly cold.”
Rees expressed gratitude in being able to reach out to young people and possibly ignite inspiration in a few of them.
“For most of you, we look at you and see ourselves 10, 15 or 20 years ago,” Dr. Rees said to students. “Maybe some of you will look at us and see yourselves in 10, 15 or 20 years from now. That’s why we brought you here today.”