By Sgt. Jessica LittlejohnApril 19, 2015
FORT BLISS, Texas - The doors of the Fort Bliss Trading Post opened up early, and the parking lot was full of happy and excited kids and parents, as they brought in their cardboard presentation boards, large displays and robotic concoctions.
El Paso's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Foundation, in partnership with the Fort Bliss Brigade Modernization Command, held its second Five Star Innovation Cup STEM Competition on Fort Bliss, March 21.
The competition hosted over 500 middle and high school students from all over the region who displayed a variety of STEM-related projects to military leaders, said Liza Montelongo, the vice president of the El Paso STEM Foundation.
"Our goal is to show the military that the kids in our region are very innovative, and we want to motivate kids by demonstrating that they are very creative," said Montelongo.
Jesus Rodriguez, 13, from Parkland Middle School, was very proud to showcase his 3D printer, which enabled him to take a two-dimensional image and create a three-dimensional image in a matter of minutes.
"People think that 3D printing is science fiction and say, oh that's never going to happen, but it's right here," said Rodriguez. "You can see it."
With the advances in science happening more and more everyday, Rodriguez said he hopes to go into the medical field and maybe even print a human heart or a human liver with a biological 3D printer, which produces human body parts.
Jennifer Arreola, 18, a student at Eldorado High School, is a member of the robotics team, RoboAzTechz, last year's winner of the Robotic Team Award. She said she hopes that her team can pull off another win this year.
We have competed in several STEM-related competitions, and our school even has a robotics class where we can continue to grow and research, said Arreola.
Felipe Carlos, also a member of the RoboAzTechz, explained the mechanics of how he and his team came up with the design and the functions of this year's competing robot.
"Every single detail of the robot, we have it for a reason," said Carlos. "The robot houses several motors so that in case one fails, it will have a backup."
Michelle Sanchez, 13, a student from Parkland Middle School, introduced her team's project called Safe and Sound to a panel of judges as part of the STEM competition's Top 10 projects.
"Safe and Sound is a project in development, which aims to reduce the amount of heat stroke fatalities of young children and infants, due to the fact that their parents unknowing leave them in the vehicle on a hot day," said Sanchez.
Deputy Commanding Officer of the Brigade Modernization Command and keynote speaker of the awards ceremony, Col. James R. Crider, expressed his appreciation and admiration for the students competing in this year's STEM competition.
"What you all are doing is more than just a science or engineering project. This is important," said Crider. "When I was your age, I was not thinking about some of the things you were thinking about. I'm really impressed."
Crider said that these projects might ultimately influence the BMC and the future of their existence by soldiers seeing these projects and getting inspired from these kids. One project may even go on to save someone's life, said Crider.
The competition concluded with award presentations, prize giveaways, and scholarship announcements at the Soldiers Hall at the BMC.
Montelongo hopes to host a two-day competition next year, to include a symposium and luncheon for all. She said the non-profit organization boasts the military's involvement and hopes to continue this competition for many years to come.
"I was walking and I had a racing car come through me, and I had a military robot behind me, and I was looking at the judges talking to this one girl, and they were [all] smiling," said Montelongo. "That's the spirit of what this competition is about. It's having the military coming in and mentoring our students and that's just a great experience."
Parkland Middle School was the top winner for the Middle School Award for their Safe and Sound project. The RoboAzTechz from El Dorado High School won the Robotic Team Award for the second year in a row.
Shambhavi Makeswaran and Priscilla Marin, students from Americas High School, were the top winners of the High School Award for their Robotic and Surgical Technology invention.