VICKSBURG, Miss. -- More than luck was on the mind of the participants at this year's "Shamrock Science at the Museum" event held March 23 at the Mississippi Children's Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The event was hosted by The Mississippi Professional Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and engaged children in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is the fourth year SHPE-MS has conducted this type of event in order to promote STEM programs to minorities.

"It all started with science night four years ago, and now we are doing several events a year," said Marielys Ramos, president of SHPE-MS and a research hydraulic engineer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory.

SHPE-MS was founded in Vicksburg in 2012 to form an organization of professionals that could serve as role models to the community. "It all started here at ERDC," said Ramos.

At this year's event, between organizers and exhibitors, the ERDC had about 25 volunteers on hand not only to promote awareness in STEM areas, but also to get kids excited to see the fun part of science. "They are there playing in dirt or sand, and then you explain to them how it applies to technology or medicine," said Ramos.

"As employees we have lots of hands-on experience in science and technology," she said. "I feel like this can translate to the community in encouraging children how important science is."

"Another thing we do is to show anyone can be an engineer," said Luis De Jesus, vice president of SHPE-MS, and a research mechanical engineer at the ERDC's Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory. "When kids come to the table, and they see people that look like them doing it - it will make them feel like they can do it."

Ramos described how one parent brought her daughter to the event just to see and meet Hispanic women engineers, just to show her (daughter) it's possible. Ramos was able to sit down and talk with her as an example of a successful Hispanic woman.

"Anything positive is always good," said De Jesus. "We like to give back."

From their humble beginnings of 12 to 14 participants at their first event to now hosting hundreds of children at the Mississippi Children's Museum, Ramos points the way forward. "We would like a bigger event in Jackson," she said.

Since partnering with Nissan in Canton, Mississippi, three years ago and the children's museum two years ago, the event has only increased in attendance. "We feel grateful for the children's museum," said De Jesus. "They were excited to have us there and that made us more excited."

Ramos would also like to expand their effort. "We can try different museums so the kids can get exposure to different things," she said. "We would like to try to do an event in Vicksburg just for the local kids here, since most of our members are from here."

"We have to thank ERDC. They give us space to do community outreach - indirectly of course - but it's always ERDC behind SHPE," said De Jesus. "It all started here at ERDC."