EL PASO, Texas -- Soldiers with a Fort Bliss training unit recently volunteered at Parkland High School for their first Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative senior project presentation.

Assistant operations officer 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, with the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, served on the judging panel, using her Army engineering experience to critique the students. Task Force Redhawk regularly volunteers with the T-STEM program at Parkland High School and has brought the students to McGregor Range in New Mexico to see the equipment 5th AR uses to train deploying Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.

The students were the first seniors to graduate from the new four-year Engineering Design and Development program at Parkland High School.

"The Engineering Design and Development is a year-long class," said Ramon Rivera, the T-STEM coordinator for the high school. "The first semester is dedicated to finding a real life problem, researching the pros and cons, and deciding on a design on how best to help the problem. The second semester is dedicated to applying the research and developing a prototype. The culmination of the class is the presentation and defense of the problem to an unbiased panel."

The seniors were broken into six groups at the beginning of the school year and given the entire year to complete their projects. During the presentation, they either presented an architectural project or a project that improved an existing product on today's consumer market. Six presentations were given, ranging from a solar panel cleaner to building a new mall in northeast El Paso.

Students were required to make a physical prototype model, test it, and give a 20-minute presentation on the product/building to the panel. The judges looked at a variety of actions to determine the teams' score, such as their presentation skills, graphics used, and the time that went into their physical prototypes.

"This presentation was a great opportunity to connect with our community," said Dudley. "The students avidly listened to any suggestions that were offered and a few even wanted to know more about engineering in the Army."

An awards ceremony was conducted later in the evening to reward the seniors' hard work in the program.

"Personally, I couldn't be happier in having the 5th Armored Brigade as our partners in education," said Rivera. "I can attest to the fact that our students have benefitted tremendously."