Buoyed by a feisty rendition of Sousa's "Gladiator," seven smiling county and school officials last week thrust gold-painted shovels into the future site of a science and technology center at Oxon Hill Senior High School.

The Oxon Hill High School band played on, mixing marches and melodies, as a parade of speakers -- including County Council member Sue Mills and assistant school superintendent Ed Felegy -- heralded the new center as a milestone for southern Prince George's County.

The $6 million facility, scheduled to open in September 1982, is to be the focal point of an advanced science program similar to one at Eleanor Roosevelt Senior High School, located in Greenblet in the county's northern section.

Under the program, Oxon Hill principal Thomas Moran explained, students with a special interest -- and ability -- will participate in a highly structured four-year science program.

Enrollment in the program will be limited to 500 students selected on the bases of exam scores, grade-point averages and teacher recommendations.

The chosen few, Moran explained, will have to demonstrate "academic precociousness."

Judging from the number of applications for the Roosevelt program -- 2,000 for 140 places this year -- Moran said he expects admission to the Oxon Hill program to be highly competitive.

Moran said the new center, which will have 16 rooms, a television studio and a media center, will encourage more students from the southern part of the county to participate in the scientific studies.

Reinforcing the mood set by the Sousa marches at the groundbreaking, school board member Angelo Castelli inspired the crowd with his version of a fight cheer as he spoke from a grassy slope, facing the jeans-clad students on the opposite lawn.

"Don't forget," boomed Castelli, "we beat Roosevelt in football this year and in a couple of years , we're going to beat them in science and technology." a