More than 130 freshman students gathered at Anne Arundel Community College’s (AACC) Regional Higher Education Center at Arundel Mills for the Fort Meade Alliance’s (FMA) Tech Mania on Oct. 27.

The morning was spent with students rotating in and out of classrooms, each of which had an interactive STEM-related lesson from participating FMA member companies: AACC, Freedom Consulting Group, Leidos, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC).

The students in attendance were from Carroll County’s Century High School, Howard County’s Marriott’s Ridge High School and Anne Arundel County’s Glen Burnie, North County and South River high schools.

“Participation in these types of events opens students to opportunities that they don’t know exist in terms of their future careers,” said Lance Bowen, dean for the School of Science and Technology at AACC. “It is also an important time for them to start thinking and planning for their education beyond high school.”

The offerings of each organization were as follows.

• AACC provided students with a hands-on experience about eyes. Students dissected a sheep eyeball in search of the cornea. In addition, students learned about vision and had their own vision challenged through various illusions.

• In the Lockheed Martin classroom, students learned about RTL-SDR (software defined radio) and were challenged to detect and identify hidden black box emitters. Students put their new knowledge to test with Spectrum Whack-a-Mole, which required them to match pulses on different channels sent out by an emitter.

• NGC gave students the ability to see into the future, with a little help from virtual reality goggles. Students experienced through the goggles how data will be analyzed in the future, and had the opportunity to control a drone.

• Leidos challenged students to a competitive game of Capture the Flag, using CyberNEXS, a real-world platform designed to assess an organization’s cybersecurity readiness.

• Freedom Consulting Group gave students an introduction to programming using Minecraft. Students received recipe cards that showed code snippets (using the Python language) of actions that can be coded in Minecraft.

“This year, Tech Mania was more interactive than ever,” said Lockheed Martin’s Marie Weber, who serves as the FMA Student Program chair. “This translated to one of our most energetic and enthusiastic groups of Tech Mania students. It comes down to individuals working together to make connections, volunteer and excite the next generation by creating experiences that help them envision themselves being part of fascinating STEM careers in our area.”

Tech Mania is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.