On March 29, the Rutgers 4-H Youth Development Program sponsored a Rutgerscience Saturday event for 51 youths across New Jersey, from grades 5-9. Participants practiced listening like a spy using laser technology, embedding messages in images and learning how to use surveillance technology.
Rutgers University graduate student Swapnil Mhaske showed a group of “spies-in-training” how to eavesdrop using a laser beam. Mhaske, whose research interests are in the area of wireless communications and information theory, spent over a month preparing to teach the students about his field of information technology.
Melissa Romanus, a graduate student pursuing a joint doctoral degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering & Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics, taught the kids how spies can embed information in JPEG images. Romanus has a strong interest in encouraging and supporting young people, especially girls, to pursue STEM fields.
According to Rutgers 4-H Agent for Science, Engineering and Technology Janice McDonnell, “The spy theme for this 4-H program was designed to draw young people into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).”
She adds that the National Academy of Science has found that STEM jobs are growing at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs, yet too few students are pursuing a STEM education. Research estimates only 17% of 12th graders are prepared for and interested in pursuing STEM degrees. “The ability of the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy depends largely on increasing the number of qualified STEM graduates,” adds McDonnell.
The program was co-sponsored by the Department of 4-H Youth Development and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.