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Posted 2/8/2012

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By Jennie Ayala
Los Angeles District

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Col. Mark Toy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, spoke with more than 90 Roosevelt Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) High School students Jan. 20 during a Viva Technology Day on campus.

As the guest speaker, the colonel seized the opportunity to lead the 10th grade students in a discussion about the significance of STEM education and careers, especially the opportunities within the Corps of Engineers.

"We're here because of STEM … and to introduce you to some of the things we do in the Army Corps of Engineers where a STEM degree may be very helpful," said Toy. After providing a brief insight into his educational and military background, Toy focused the students' attention to a Corps video that demonstrated the organization's missions and programs and highlighted the impacts of Corps projects in their everyday life.

Later he quizzed the students on the actual types of Corps careers or jobs one could enjoy with a STEM degree and passed out Viva dollars, incentives to the students who responded. "What I'm really happy to see in this audience here is the fact that we have a lot of young ladies and to let you know that there are plenty of opportunities out there for you," said Toy. Students had plenty of questions for the colonel, many of them dealt with his personal educational experiences and the opportunities they might take advantage of while they're in high school.

Earlier that morning, Corps mentors, financial manager Margie Tizon and civil engineers, Reuben Sasaki and Damien
Lariviere, joined local engineering and science college students as team captains and led the high school students through three STEM challenges. These included a telegraph communications challenge, a rocket launcher exercise and a dream challenge, requiring students to look ahead 30 years and create an invention, using STEM, to solve one of the world's problems.

Many of the post survey comments from students that day reflected a recurring theme: the challenges, activities and speakers at a Viva Technology program are motivating and exciting and all students should have the opportunity to experience it at least once.

"I hope that they (students) see the possibilities and that they see themselves as a Colonel Toy, or a civil engineer that comes to speak with them, that they can transport themselves to that person and say that can be me, that will be me, said Silvia Tovar, Roosevelt High School STEM principal.

The Viva Technology program is designed to engage innercity and rural K-12 students, teachers and parents in the applications of technology in order to stimulate interest and academic achievement in math, science and engineering. The workshop integrates competitive exercises with real success stories of minorities and women who are scientists, engineers, or other technical professionals.

Vivas are implemented by Great Minds in STEM, through the STEM Up program, as part of the STEM School Support Initiative Program funded by the Department of Defense and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District.