STEM-Up 'bridges' engineering gap
Robert Moreno, a senior park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helps students put a bridge model together Oct. 8 during the HENAAC 2009 Conference and Awards Show held in Long Beach, Calif. Moreno and other Corps employees coached students during the exercise and gave them insights into careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. (USACE photo by Daniel J. Calderón)

LONG BEACH, Calif.--The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated in the HENAAC 2009 Conference and Awards Show held in Long Beach, Calif. from Oct. 7-10. This year\'s theme was "Engineering Hope in the Century of STEM."
"We're going to make you proud," said Ray Mellado, HENAAC CEO and Chairperson, to members of the Corps leadership on hand at the STEM-Up Conference held at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. STEM, as used in the conference parlance, refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - the four career paths upon which HENAAC strives to guide students.
"You really are the future. You are the first in the country to really get this program going. I have an assignment for you, though. You need to visit a College of Engineering at a university," said Mellado.
Mellado told the students visiting the College of Engineering would allow them to really see how their current education in math and science will translate into higher-level learning. He praised the members of the Corps for being there to help mentor students and show them how principles learned in classrooms translated into real-world experience.
During the conference, students participated in several mock graduations. First, they all "graduated" from high school. Then, they received Engineering degrees from California State University Los Angeles. Students then moved on to receive a Master's Degree in Engineering from the University of Southern California and finally a Ph.D. in Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With their faux credentials at the ready, the students were prepared for the next phase of their day. Following the initial conference, Corps employees and students adjourned to rooms for breakout sessions. At one session, a Corps employee discussed one aspect of the Corps' mission - building bridges. Students then had an hour to construct bridges according to specific designs. In another breakout session, students learned about sustainable engineering and had to build a wind turbine. Dr. H. Keith Moo-Young, P.E., the dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology at California State University Los Angeles, was on hand to talk with students. He said the university system is looking forward to taking in more students in the STEM fields. "I have room for 1,200 more students right now," he said about his university's capacity to absorb new students. "The state of California needs more students to go into these degree programs. You need engineers to translate great ideas into real-world applications and innovations."
Moo-Young focused on California universities, but said students everywhere need to ensure they focus on their STEM studies. He praised the Corps of Engineers for its foresight and for the employees willing to devote time, energy and insight into this effort. "I think the Corps of Engineers should be applauded for taking on this important mission," he said. "Hopefully, we will see other organizations in the Department of Defense and federal system begin to take this initiative forward. This [STEM education] is urgently needed in urban communities nationwide." The Los Angeles District is continuing to take its commitment to STEM education forward with its STEM-Up Initiative (TM), which provides educational and enrichment opportunities to the students, teachers and parents of the 13 elementary and three middle schools that feed into Roosevelt and Mendez High Schools in East Los Angeles.
For more information on STEM-Up Initiative, visit their Web site at

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16