Defense Media Network

USACE STEM Partnerships on the Rise

Needing the best and brightest

A panel of judges consisting of Army scientists and engineers from RDECOM, USACE, the Army Medical Command, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and West Point selected the winning teams based on several criteria, including their use of scientific method/inquiry or engineering design process, collaborative effort, and benefit to the community.

“Sustaining the Army’s capability in the face of an ever-increasing dependence on technology is a challenge. It requires a deliberate focus to help grow and sustain the STEM skills and competencies for the Army of the future,” Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said. “I am excited to see so many of our young technology leaders in this competition and I am honored to be here recognizing their contributions to the science and technology community.”

For the 11th annual national event, 21,345 students on 5,292 teams entered the state competitions; of those who went on to the regionals, 16 teams progressed to the finals. From those, one winning team was selected in each of the four grade classifications.

Leonardo Bridge

In honor of National Engineers Week 2013, USACE Europe District employees presented structural engineering, alternative energy, and fire protection topics to Wiesbaden Middle School students Feb. 19-21 in Wiesbaden, Germany. Lawrence Carabajal, a district structural engineer, demonstrated bridge-building concepts to eighth-grade science and math students. Carabajal used a hands-on approach, constructing a Leonardo bridge for students to test and re-create. Students were eager to assist in testing the capacity of the bridge by adding textbooks to determine the applied load the structure could withstand without failing or breaking. Later, the students were asked how to strengthen the bridge. The answer, provided by one engaged student, was reinforcement. Using their feet, students created an embankment to support the bridge allowing for a much greater applied load (more textbooks) than the previous bridge could hold. The demonstration provided a key lesson in tension versus compression, a concept critical to bridge design and construction. It was also an opportunity for USACE to come into the school and expose the students to real-world applications of what they learn in the classroom as it relates to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. USACE photo by Jennifer Aldridge

“They’re dealing with things that are very relevant to what the Corps of Engineers and the Army are engaged with now. These are national issues that we’re talking about,” Lloyd Caldwell, USACE director of military programs, said at the national eCYBERMISSION awards ceremony in June.

Noting he and Engelhardt chatted during lunch with seventh-graders about improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, he added: “These kids are actually working on some things that relate to that. It’s pretty amazing. [And] the relevance of what’s going on here and the fact that the Army is sponsoring this is huge.”

In May, USACE extended its efforts with U.S. military dependent students with the signing of an agreement with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) to emphasize STEM education.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is excited about the partnership with DoDEA and our ability to leverage our scientists and engineers to provide STEM-related expertise to military children around the world. We are committed to teaming with others to strengthen STEM programs that inspire young people to pursue careers in these fields,” Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, USACE commanding general, told attendees at a partnership agreement signing ceremony on May 20.

“The Corps, the Department of Defense, and the nation need to ensure there is a pipeline of students engaged in STEM and prepared for careers in engineering, natural sciences, and research and development. Just six out of 100 current ninth-graders will go on to earn a STEM degree. We want young boys and girls to be excited about STEM, and we want that to start early – they need hands-on experience and the opportunity to learn firsthand from STEM professionals. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to be an active part of helping solve our nation’s STEM challenge.

“The U.S. expects a total of 2.8 million STEM job openings by 2020, based on growth and retirements. The nation will need to increase the number of college graduates by approximately 1 million more STEM professionals to fulfill the requirement, but we will not meet that need without change. Only 14 countries in the world produce a smaller percentage of engineers than the United States, including countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Cuba. Out of 100 college graduates in the U.S., four are engineers; in Russia, the number is 10, in China 31.”

Bostick, who attended DoD Dependents Schools (DoDDS) in Germany and Japan during his father’s service as a master sergeant in the Army, said he has encouraged the entire Corps of Engineers to be a leader in STEM. Under the new agreement, USACE will work more closely with DoDEA schools to bring STEM professionals into the classroom, leveraging the strengths of both organizations. It also includes the creation of a specific project related to a civil works or other USACE functions and linking STEM content to coursework within sixth- to eighth-grade classes. The objectives of the program are to enhance the STEM curricula, support teachers by implementing engineering and design concepts into the curriculum, increase student awareness and interest in STEM activities, projects, and career opportunities, and to share the USACE mission with the local community. The program is different from others because the program is embedded in the classroom and tied to the curriculum, conceptual understanding is built in, and the program provides face-to-face, hands-on, long-term interaction with the teachers and students.

“The Corps truly believes in reaching out to the next and next-after generations of the workforce – to make sure they understand what not only the Corps but the Army as a whole needs in terms of STEM,” Engelhardt said, adding that six out of nine USACE mission-critical occupations are STEM-related. “Some 40 percent of our workforce is eligible to retire – and most of those are in STEM jobs.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...