PASADENA, Calif. -- Tyler Miller, a student at the University of California-Merced, hopes the future generation will grow up and not have to worry about air and water pollution.

The second-year environmental engineering student also said he wants to believe that one day smog and water pollution will not exist.

"I want our children to grow up and not have to worry about asthma because of air pollution," he said. "And, I don't want Mexico, for example, having to deal with its water pollution. I want there to be an easy way for people to actually enjoy what we have."

Miller's friend, Christian Lopez-Garcia, a mechanical engineering student at the University of California-Merced, also has hopes of his own. One day, he said, he would like to build renewable types of energy.

Recently, his hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico, was hit by a catastrophic earthquake. He heard the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helps people around the world using engineering mathematics and wants to do the same.

"It hit very close to home, so I saw this as an opportunity to travel or get a sponsorship to travel," he said.

Both Miller and Lopez-Garcia were members of the Corps' college bowl team during the 29th annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference, or HENAAC, Oct. 18 to 22 in Pasadena. The HENAAC College Bowl is a two-day, high-energy competition in which teams of college students, coached and judged by industry and government representatives, focus on showcasing their talents, teamwork and leadership skills, according to its website.

Each round of competition addresses topics relevant to career success. The competition offers students the opportunity to gain a perspective from corporate mentors and, more importantly, sharpen their skills in areas of communication and teamwork. Additionally, it gives them the opportunity to win scholarships and awards.

Each team was provided with two coaches. Coaches for the Corps' team were Victoria Guilloty, a mechanical engineer, and Juan Sandoval, a Department of the Army intern and civil engineer, both with the Los Angeles District.

This was Guilloty's third year coaching at the event.

Participating at HENAAC has helped her stay connected with the next generation, she said, and it helps provide a face to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"It helps me practice good communication skills -- communication and building relationships," she said. "It also helps market our organization. It's about staying connected with the next generation. They are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them."

This was Sandoval's first year as an assistant coach. He said he was impressed by the students and hopes to coach again next year.

"I found it important because it's a great way to reach out to young engineers coming out of school," he said. "I got to meet a bunch of kids with bright minds and an engineering way of thinking about life. The future is bright among these kids. This world is going to be in pretty good hands when it comes to engineering."

During the college bowl, teams represented by different corporations and federal agencies competed against each other in five different rounds of events, including resume reviews, team skits and a capstone event, Deal or No Deal, which mimicked the popular TV game show.

George Green, Workforce Management administrator with the LA District, was a second-year judge during the event.

Some of the criteria judges looked at during the resume review were whether or not the student clearly articulated the skills and experience he or she had obtained; grammatical errors and formatting; and if the amount of the resume content was appropriate.

During the skits, Green said, judges scored on whether the team had a clear understanding of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, concept; whether or not the skit was appropriate; and whether or not the team met the skit's objective.

Being a judge was rewarding and a great way to mentor students, Green said.

"I think a lot of times, as employers, we spend so much time focusing on who we're going to hire, but we don't take the time to give back, teach them our experiences and focus on providing them the skill sets necessary to work in the private or federal sector," he said. "For me, I think (it's about) seeing someone that is very appreciate of me taking the time to share my experiences with (him or her)."

Although the Corps' team did not place in the top three at this year's competition, members like Miller and Lopez-Garcia expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the conference and network with the people and organizations there.

"I think it's amazing there's an event like this," Lopez-Garcia said. "It would be very hard for me and my friend to actually do things like this in Merced because it's in the Central Valley. There's absolutely nothing around us. The biggest city around us is Fresno, and that's an hour away."

Miller said his goal as a person is to do something bigger than himself.

"If that means I have to go above and beyond, I will," he said.

"I think that's what the overall connection that brought us here is, that we want to do something bigger than ourselves," Lopez-Garcia said. "This is something I feel can help us achieve that."

ANNUAL HENAAC CONFERENCE
Great Minds in STEM's annual HENAAC Conference is the organization's flagship event, where all elements of outreach and programming come together to celebrate Hispanic excellence in STEM, according to its website at www.greatmindsinstem.org.

The conference features executive forums, seminars, competitive programs, career opportunities and networking sessions and is attended by more than 3,000 STEM students and professionals annually.

The HENAAC conference offers college students:
• A one-stop source for career and professional development to gain entry into the technical workforce;
• A place to network and interact with high-level STEM professionals;
• The chance to build self-confidence through technical and professional development competitions and mentorship;
• An opportunity to explore internship, full-time employment and graduate schools; and,
• The venue to access information on cutting-edge technologies.