LEESBURG, Va. (June 18, 2013) -- Sixteen student scientist teams converged here for the eCYBERMISSION National Judging and Educational Event June 17-21. The NJ&EE includes several science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities in addition to the eCYBERMISSION competition finals.

Jeffrey Singleton told the young scientists how important the STEM fields are to America's future. He is the director of basic research for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Singleton told them how proud he and the Army were of their accomplishments and encouraged them to pursue a STEM career.

In an interview with the RDECOM public affairs office, Singleton stressed the importance of the STEM fields as well as the Army's role in fostering students' enthusiasm for STEM with its many efforts through the Army Educational Outreach Program.

Why do you think educational outreach is important?

"We think it's very important. Particularly from President Obama's message on down from the Office of Personnel Management, they are encouraging us very strongly, number one, to help engage the youth in America in science, technology, engineering and math. To use our scientists and engineers and our laboratory facilities to help bring them in, expose them to a science career and to build that interest, to build a very broad and diverse pool. We want to reach as many different groups as possible to help them build interest and generate interest in a science career. It's important for the nation, it's important for the nation's prosperity as we go forward...and for the Department of Defense."

Why is eCYBERMISSION important, and what does it do for the students and for the Army?

"It's two-fold -- eCYBERMISSION focuses on the sixth through ninth grade; it's one step in the beginning of a pipeline. We like to have our programs linked. They're all an element of the Army Educational Outreach Program. We wanted to build a pipeline so we engage students in the sixth through ninth grade through eCYBERMISSION. They can progress further to one of our programs in high school and then early college years and beyond. Another benefit of the eCYBERMISSION is because it's a virtual event, we can reach all 50 states or around the world. We can reach into [Department of Defense Education Activity] schools, which are overseas.

That's very important because not all of our labs are near the population that we want to reach. We only have a certain number of labs, and they're primarily concentrated on the East Coast. So eCYBERMISSION, being virtual, we can reach into every single middle school or high school in the country."

What is it like actually seeing the young students involved in the eCYBERMISSION National Judging and Education Event?

"It's always exciting to see the kids. They're so enthusiastic. They believe in their projects and they're so happy to demonstrate it for you. It tells me that we're truly reaching and engaging and encouraging the students' interest in a science or in an engineering or technology career.

And as I mentioned in my orientation briefing, my personal belief is that, number one, you work hard, you do your best and great things are going to happen to you. Stay in school forever; you keep the mindset of always wanting to learn. These kids have it. We want to foster that and keep that going. And just to see the enthusiasm in their faces, how excited they are about their projects is truly rewarding to me personally because, again, I believe I try to stay in school forever. This allows me to reach back, to feel that enthusiasm within myself."

If there was one thing you would say to any students interested in the STEM fields, what would that be?

"The first thing you have to do is find something that interests you. There's always going to be a question out there...a problem. You know, you see something in the environment around you that you wonder, how does that work? So follow that thread. That's how you get encouraged. That's how you try to figure out a field that will interest you your entire life."

Is there anything you would like to add?

"I just want to reiterate the fact that this is one of the first steps in a process. eCYBERMISSION is one of our earliest engagements in terms of educational outreach programs. We're trying to start earlier because we recognize that there is a bridging point where we start to lose interest in some of the under represented or underserved populations, women, minorities, people from other socio-economic conditions at around the third- through fifth-grade level. If they lose their interest in science and math there, it is tough to stay abreast or to keep up.

So that is why it is very important for the Army and DoD in particular because we are the one of the largest employers of scientists and engineers in the nation. We harvest that talent when they come out of college so we want to instill that enthusiasm at a young age.

We want to reach them through eCYBERMISSION, sixth through ninth grade, link them to our other programs. Our Gains in Engineering, Math and Science, which is a program within our own laboratories, brings them into our laboratories. Link them to internships, put them together with near-peer mentors at some of our higher-level programs so that they always can truly recognize, follow what interests them in terms of hands-on experience in science and math. That will build interest into, potentially a future workforce for us. Someone who knows that Army has really tough science and engineering problems.

That's what drew me to the Army when I came out of school. Because it was the toughest problem. I worked in rotorcraft. I broke things for a living or nearly broke things for a living. It was the toughest problem, air mechanical stability for rotorcraft. And so the freedom to pursue that really brought me and has allowed me to truly enjoy my engineering career with the Department of the Army."