HENAAC leaders
From left, Ray Mellado, founder of Great Minds in STEM; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady, commander of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command; and Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commander of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, talk Oct. 6 before addressing students at the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Civilian scientists serve a vital role alongside Soldiers in protecting America's national security, educational and military leaders told about 200 local high-school students.

Ray Mellado, founder of Great Minds in STEM, the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference's host, said the nation's future will depend on bright, young students continuing the scientific excellence established by previous generations.

"Our country needs each and every one of you. We need engineers and scientists to protect our country, freedom and safety," Mellado said during the Viva Technology program Oct. 6.

Mellado introduced HENAAC's 2011 Hispanic Engineer of the Year, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady. Brady is commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

Brady said the country needs a surge in students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM.

"The last time we had a big surge of STEM majors who come through our educational system goes back to President Kennedy and his push to get to the moon. Everyone wanted to be an engineer," Brady said. "That generation is reaching retirement age. We haven't done a good job in refreshing that workforce."

A career in science or engineering will not be easy, but the rewards are tremendous, Brady said.

"Getting those degrees in STEM may mean you're going to study a little longer and harder. It's a more difficult path than other majors," Brady said. "There are going to be a lot of STEM jobs in the future; you'll have job security and job availability.

"You can do great things for the nation. You can really make a difference in these fields. Don't give up and take an easier path because in the long run, it will be worth it."

Brady is a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a bachelor of science in ocean engineering.  He earned a master's degree in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School.

In July 2007, Brady became the first person of Hispanic descent to be named commander of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. He is one of four admirals of Hispanic descent serving in the Navy.

Page last updated Sat October 8th, 2011 at 00:00