FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, March 18, 2014) -- Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, professionals are critical to the success of the U.S. military, Army senior leaders have said.

Both the military and the nation "must ensure that there is a pipeline [of students] engaged in STEM and prepared for careers in engineering, the natural sciences, research and development," said the Army's senior-most engineer, Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Fulfilling the promise to engage American youth in STEM activities, Brig. Gen. John W. Charlton, commander, Brigade Modernization Command, or BMC, Fort Bliss, Texas, invited about 15 high school students to observe some of the technology within his own area of responsibility, March 7.

Those same students also demonstrated to BMC leadership the robotics technology they developed in advance of the upcoming "5-STAR Innovation Cup" STEM competition. That event will be held March 29 at Fort Bliss.

Charlton said he is looking forward to the event and is providing Soldiers from his command to help judge.

"We're surrounded by technology every day, so we're really happy to be co-sponsors of this STEM effort," said Charlton. "This event is going to showcase some of the best minds in the middle and high schools across the El Paso community. So we're real excited about that."

Shane Haggerty, president of the El Paso STEM Foundation, said the "5-STAR" competition is meant to encourage youth in the El Paso area to involve themselves in STEM education.

"The purpose of the 5-STAR Innovation Cup and the El Paso STEM foundation is to inspire, engage, educate, develop and support the next generation of STEM professionals in our region," Haggerty said.

At the March 7 event, Charlton and other members from the BMC had the opportunity to see robotic models that students from surrounding high schools presented.

"[These] high school students brought some of their equipment to see how it compares to ours," said Charlton. "I'm pretty impressed. I hope to see some of these things in action, and I'm sure it's going to be a great competition."

Charlton said it is the responsibility of BMC Soldiers and civilians to take a look at new technologies and new capabilities and figure out a way to bring them into the Army and put them in the hands of Soldiers so they can perform better on the battlefield.

At Fort Bliss, participating high school students saw some of the equipment BMC uses as part of their mission to assess and evaluate systems.

"This is kind of our monster garage down here," said Charlton. "We work with a lot of our partners in the military to build these vehicles and then we take them out into the desert and test them a couple of times a year. And the things that work well eventually find their way into the Army."

The University of Texas at El Paso was also represented during the event. Gabby Gandara, outreach director of UTEP's Engineering Student Services, introduced two undergraduate engineering majors who serve as ambassadors to help implement the college's outreach programs that include robotics.

"High school students from Hanks and Parkland have participated [in the robotics program]," said Gandara. "Part of those programs is what we're going to showcase come March twenty-ninth as part of the Five-STAR Innovation Cup [STEM competition]."

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