At the start of a formal ceremony opening the STEM and Education Outreach Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground Tuesday morning, Chaplain Lt. Col Juan Crockett gave an invocation.
"Lord of science," Crockett said, "thousands of children will come here seeking truth. We pledge to use this center to guide and heal."
That message was reiterated as the ceremony outside Building 4508 at APG continued.
Dale Ormond, director of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), said the new center "changes the way children think of and regard science and engineering."
Ormond thanked the people who sought to establish the center, saying it has attracted students from across the country, including South Carolina and New Jersey.
The STEM Center's opening was "a great day for the state of Maryland and a great day for Aberdeen Proving Ground," Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell, senior commander at Aberdeen Proving Ground and the commanding general at the Army's Communications-Electronics Command, said. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Ferrell said the center would not have been build without RDECOM, which he said "has been our quarterback, and this day is a real touchdown."
Ferrell noted that President Obama remarked recently that the country needs "a nationwide approach to STEM education."
"We are certainly doing that here," Ferrell said to applause, adding that leaders from APG had signed an educational partnership with Harford County Public Schools. Harford Community College also had representatives at Tuesday's ceremony.
"We're so glad to have some young leaders here today who have benefited from the STEM program," Ferrell said. "You truly are our guests of honor today."
First for APG
Jeff Singleton, director of laboratory management and educational outreach in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, said he was "proud to be here to celebrate the opening of this facility," adding that it is the first facility at APG to be dedicated to STEM education.
Singleton introduced college students Amanda Weerasooriya, Shelby Bartram and Nicole Racine, who all took part in STEM programs at APG before college.
Racine, a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said she was "honored to be here the opening of the STEM Education Center."
"It's unique because it's a place where people can interact with scientists and engineering," Racine said.
Racine, a North Harford High School graduate from Whiteford, also spoke about her experiences at Aberdeen Proving Ground and how she was inspired to pursue a career in engineering, remembering her time in the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program at APG.
"When I got to GEMS, I was exposed to experiments and equipment I had never been exposed to before," Racine said, telling a story about being freaked out after viewing a spider's eyes with an electron microscope, which drew laughs from the audience.
"It was a great example of how GEMS sparked my interest in STEM," Racine said. "GEMS helped me realize what you can do with science and education."
Racine also spoke about her later activities in high school working with other programs, telling how she applied to a Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program her senior year of high school.
"The work was really overwhelming at first, but I learned to love the work," Racine said. She returned to APG this summer to work as a college qualified leader, continuing earlier work she had done with Kevlar vests.