By Col. Richard P. PannellAugust 15, 2013
Commentary by Col. Richard P. Pannell
GALVESTON, Texas (Aug. 15, 2013) -- Growing up in Athens, Ga., in the 70s and 80s, I was extremely fortunate to be exposed to the opportunities that a solid education can provide. Home to the University of Georgia where my father worked as a professor, Athens was a showcase for personal exploration.
My father's office overlooked the football stadium where I spent many Saturdays selling programs on gameday. The stadium itself was an engineering feat - a mountain of concrete rising gently from a small valley with an elevated bridge at one end and a railroad track at the other. I was always amazed at how perfectly the stadium was integrated into the rest of the campus in such a small area but still able to hold an endless sea of energized 'Dawg fans.' Little did I realize that this typical childhood experience was setting the stage for a lifelong interest and fascination with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
I was also fortunate to have great teachers and role models who encouraged me throughout my early years. In particular were two teachers who inspired me when I was in the seventh grade. Reggie Vipperman was truly inspirational in sharing her love of science with her students and my math teacher, Sandy Duncan, started every class with "Duncan's Daily Doubles" - two difficult mathematical word problems that she would challenge us with to demonstrate problem solving skills and the practical application of mathematics to everyday problems.
Today, in my role as the United States Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District commander, I remain committed to supporting STEM outreach and inspiring America's youth to answer today's growing challenge. With the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling our nation to remain economic and technological leaders in the global marketplace, it is imperative that we all remain committed to strengthen interest and motivate our youth to pursue STEM-related occupations. This is why I've challenged my staff to expand our outreach efforts and strengthen our existing STEM program. But in order to do this successfully, I need your help.
Earlier this month, the USACE Galveston District launched a "Who inspired you to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math?" campaign asking STEM professionals to join us in sharing their stories to help inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in STEM fields.
We're reaching out to congressional members, university professors and women in NASA but we also know that it's often the local community leaders, chemistry teachers and nurses who students relate to best and are the ones who make the biggest impact. We intend to share these inspirational comments on our website and social media pages as well as during an upcoming annual Great Minds in STEM event at Rice Elementary in Houston this September.
I believe this campaign will help promote STEM awareness, inspire our youth, attract females and minorities to work in STEM-related fields and help close the performance gap in underrepresented students' STEM educational achievement.
We all need to take steps to encourage our students to secure the technical jobs of the future and keep our nation on the edge of innovation. Visit our website at www.swg.usace.army.mil, click on the "Who Inspired You?" icon and participate in our STEM Inspiration Campaign today.