The USAARL Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program is an extracurricular STEM education program that enables students from the Wiregrass region of southeast Alabama to engage in hands-on experiments, which are age- and grade-appropriate, and to focus on STEM career fields. GEMS program students learn numerous math and science concepts; practice the scientific method, problem solving, and speaking in a public forum; gain exposure to a laboratory setting; and interact with military and civilian technicians, clinicians, scientists, and engineers. GEMS aims to reach students who are underserved or historically underrepresented in STEM.
The program is organized such that college-age students, called Near-Peer Mentors, lead the GEMS modules and serve as role models to the students by promoting science and math concepts and by acting as expert resources concerning college life and career pathways. The Near-Peer Mentors, who are close in age to the GEMS students, create a relaxed atmosphere ideal for learning. The program is strengthened by resource teachers, knowledgeable in STEM education, who train the Near-Peer Mentors, and oversee the day-to-day operations of GEMS.
Since 2011, the USAARL GEMS program has provided STEM education to over 1,000 students from Fort Rucker, Enterprise, Ozark, Daleville, Dothan, and other local communities. Each year the program has grown in both the modules offered and the number of students who complete the program.