GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Today about 3 million positions are vacant because companies can't find workers with basic technical skills in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM, according to the U.S. News and World Report, if unchecked, they say that number grows to about 10 million by 2020.
That is why 93 students, fourth graders from the Grafenwoehr Elementary school in Germany, took a field trip, Jan. 14, to the Joint Multinational Training Command. Every day, trainers prepare troops for deployment, but students learned how they could use complex simulations, graphics, training aids and devices in real-world situations. The students saw firsthand not only how the devices worked, but how computer codes and scientific principles facilitated the military training.
The students saw common military training tools like the Training Support Activity Europe's Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer, a virtual training device that provides Soldiers hands-on experience with a life-size High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle or Humvee. It surrounds trainees in a 360-degree virtual world.
Another tool, Virtual BattleSpace 2, at the Joint Multinational Simulation Center, showed how video game technology could provide real-world application. While the Dismounted Soldier Training System, a system that allows nine trainees to perform ground missions, demonstrated another virtual training environment.
Smith said she's already considering a career in engineering.
"I'm thinking about being an engineer of some sort," she said. "This helps explain another side of technology and science."
During one presentation, an Avatar in the Human Intelligence Control Cell at the simulations center was questioned. The computer program allows Soldiers to develop tactical questioning and debriefing skills. The students made simple changes to the code and watched the Avatar's response change.
"We are trying to get students to see and experience science in reality, or real applications of science," said Eric G. Heilman, a science advisor. "I hope they have a common experience, but also take away a basic understanding of how simulations and technology can be used in their every-day life. "When the Avatar was asked questions and responded, that was the concrete part of the demonstration."
In an initiative to encourage students to grasp 21st-century skills, and to facilitate interest in STEM subjects, the Department of Defense Schools added courses in Biotechnology, Gaming Technology, Green Technology, Robotics and Health Sciences I and II. Since the 2011-2012 school year, four courses became 15 STEM-related courses in 2013-2014, which also includes Telepresence learning that allows an instructor at another school to teach students from various locations.
Other initiatives related to STEM are grants and funding measures provided by the Obama administration to create opportunities for teachers.
The U.S. government has mandated $250 million toward the development of 10,000 new math and science teachers, while offering aid to more than 100,000 existing teachers to ensure students receive education to mitigate future knowledge gaps and shortages.