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Posted 6/26/2013

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By Evan Dyson

LEESBURG, Va.-- Students excelling in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) were recently recognized at the 11th Annual eCYBERMISSION National Judging and Education Event in Leesburg, Va.

The U.S. Army's eCYBERMISSION program is a web-based STEM competition free for students in grades six through nine in which teams compete for state, regional and national awards while working to solve problems in their communities.

Against 21,345 students on 5,292 teams from state and regional competitions, 16 teams progressed to the national competition.

On June 21, the keynote speaker for the awards ceremony, Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, explained how eCYBERMISSION is one component of a larger Army Educational Outreach Program effort.

"It is important for us -- for the Nation at large and also for the Army -- that we have the next generation of scientists and engineers here in front of us," said Miller. "We do these types of outreach programs to make sure that we are making that next generation aware of the Army's needs and the military's needs."

Miller, herself an engineer with 29 years of experience, also noted the rewarding nature of the job. "Being a scientist and an engineer in the Army is a lot of fun," she said.

Sue Engelhardt, director of human resources for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Lloyd Caldwell, director of military programs, spoke of the pride felt for these students.

"We've got a great future ahead of us if we have kids like that working toward these projects," said Engelhardt.

Caldwell agreed.

"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," said Caldwell.

At their table, over lunch, the pair chatted with seventh graders about improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

"These kids are actually working on some things that relate to that," said Caldwell. "It's pretty amazing."

National winning teams for this year's competition are The Falcons, composed of 6th grade students Eric Jenny, John Liddy, Christopher Mabie; STEM Ninjas, composed of 7th grade students Divya Mereddy, Rachana Subbanna and Sneha Thandra; Charger Breath Saver, composed of 8th grade students Abigail Cochell, Katherine Holway and Haley Ritchie; and TXT U L8R, composed of 9th grade students Valerie Chen, Raghav Ramraj, Matthew Sun and Jasper Teakle.

These teams represent Skyview Middle School in Leominster, Mass.; Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, Va.; Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C.; and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., respectively.

Engelhardt and Caldwell are encouraged by the Army's participation in this type of outreach.

"The relevance of what's going on here and the fact that the Army is sponsoring this is huge," said Caldwell. "There has to be an institution, or a number of institutions in the Nation that … don't have some kind a monetary interest in what they're achieving, but rather are contributing to the larger good."

The United States expects a total of 2.8 million STEM job openings by 2020 based on growth and retirements, but recent surveys indicate that only six out of 100 current ninth graders will go on to earn a degree in these fields.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working to meet the Nation's STEM challenge, actively connects the Corps with communities around the Nation. In cooperation with national partners, including the Department of Defense Educational Activity and Department of Defense initiatives like the Army Educational Outreach Program, the Corps strives to increase the awareness of these fields. In addition, over 1,000 student internship opportunities are available each year for students to experience the possibilities that exist within the Army.

To learn more about the Corps' involvement in STEM, visit usace.army.mil/stem.

eCYBERMISSION leesburg STEM students USACE