FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii- More than a dozen USACE professionals from the Pacific Ocean Division responded to a call for volunteers to be virtual judges February to March for the 2012/2013 eCYBERMISSION competition.
The U.S. Army's eCYBERMISSION program is a free, web-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competition for students in grades six through nine attending any U.S. or Department of Defense Educational Activity school. The program is designed to inspire young people to pursue careers in STEM fields and develop skills that are going to be required in order for today's students to be tomorrow's global leaders.
Students participating in the program compete for State, Regional and National awards by working in teams to identify a problem in their community and using scientific methods or engineering designs to propose a solution.
"USACE recognizes the critical role that STEM fields play in enabling the U.S. to remain competitive in the global marketplace and to keep our Nation secure," said Col. Gregory J. Gunter, commander of the Corps' Pacific Ocean Division. "Our team is committed to STEM outreach, and eCYBERMISSION provided volunteers the flexibility of sharing their time and expertise online at their own convenience."
Chan, an environmental engineer and senior quality manager at the division, is credited with pulling together the team of volunteers. She also took on the role of a virtual judge.
"I looked at a wide array of projects from whether chewing gum will improve test scores to creating a biodiesel fuel for school busses," said Chan. "While some of the projects were from students just starting to explore the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; there were other teams that were beyond what I remember thinking about when I was in the 6th to 9th grades."
Normally, judges are expected to review and score about 10 student projects, each requiring about one hour to complete. Mun, who is an electrical engineer in the Regional Business Technical division, was an exception.
"I believe it's so important for us to encourage our young people to explore careers related to the STEM fields," said Mun. "We live in such a technically oriented world."
By the end of the judging period, the USACE engineer had examined 65 projects, and helped students understand the real-life application of STEM fields associated with their missions.
Mun recalled how one team proposed to address a nutrition concern about children lacking Vitamin C by creating a fizzy lemonade drink using fresh lemons and baking soda. Another team built a sophisticated robot that responded to commands from a computer.
"It's personally satisfying to be able to contribute and promote STEM education to our youth in a fun and unique way," said Mun. "I was totally amazed by the young students' astuteness of community problems."
Among the 44 USACE judges were 13 professionals from the Pacific Ocean Division, including Lori Arakawa, Alina Cayetano, Lisa Chan, Eric Chow, Riki Iwasaki, David Lau, Ronette Lee, Jenny Masunaga, Thomas Mun, Gayle Rich, Allen Taira, Keith Terada and George Ward. Together the mechanical, civil, general, environmental, electrical engineers and attorney evaluated a total of 250 student mission folders online during the month of March.
The team of judges, who reviewed a multitude of projects by a diverse group of students from around the Nation, all agreed with Mun, who said, "I would volunteer again." "When you're able to share your knowledge to help develop the next generation of leaders--that's rewarding!"
For more information about eCYBERMISSION, visit wwwecybermission.com. This STEM-outreach program is sponsored by the Department of the Army and managed by U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.