LEESBURG, Va. -- As Army Futures Command drives efforts to modernize capabilities for the future force, it also works to foster a pipeline of highly-skilled civilian engineers and scientists who will discover and develop the technologies beyond 2028.

This pipeline starts with the Army Educational Outreach Program.

AFC's Combat Capabilities Development Command manages AEOP on behalf of the Army, and works to cultivate student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) -- and awareness of Army science and technology in particular -- well before they enter the workforce.

"The global competitiveness for STEM talent is strengthening," explained Christina Weber, CCDC's acting chief of STEM Education & Outreach, and AEOP's cooperative agreement manager. "To be prepared, we need a more diverse, agile and resilient STEM workforce, and that's where AEOP comes in."

CCDC scientists, engineers, non-commissioned officers and support staff from the National Science Teachers Association played host to 75 sixth- through ninth-grade students competing in AEOP's 17th annual eCYBERMISSION National Judging & Educational Event in Leesburg, Virginia, June 16-21.

Similar to an online science fair, eCYBERMISSION is a web-based competition that challenges student teams from across the country to develop scientific solutions to problems in their local communities. This year, the program tallied nearly 18,000 student participants.

"With programs like eCYBERMISSION, we're exposing the next generation of STEM talent to the Army's most cutting-edge research and technology through its highly-skilled civilian scientists and engineers," Weber said.

During each competition phase, students interacted with countless Army scientists and engineers who answered questions, gave technical advice, shared insight, provided feedback, and judged project folders.

eCYBERMISSION is just one of countless STEM programs offered by AEOP, representing the Army's commitment to developing a diverse, agile, highly competent STEM talent pool to strengthen the Army, DoD, and the Nation's workforce.

"It is our goal to make sure student are exposed to STEM opportunities," said John Willison, CCDC deputy to the commanding general, "And to help students understand what you can do with a STEM education, where you can go with a STEM career, and how it contributes to the Army mission."

The eCYBERMISSION National Judging & Educational Event includes a variety of activities for students, who are joined by a team of CCDC scientists, engineers and non-commissioned officers who serve as mentors during the national competition. Teams learn about the Army Values, practice public speaking and presentation skills, tour Washington, D.C., meet with members of Congress, and participate in hands-on Army STEM activities like water balloon ballistics and remote control vehicle acceptance testing.

"I love being an Army scientist, and this is a great way for me to share that with the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Dr. Sasha Teymorian, a chemist with the CCDC Army Research Laboratory who served as an eCYBERMISSION mentor this year. "I was fortunate to have a number of outstanding mentors in my school years, and these programs are the perfect way for me to be thankful and give back."

The week culminated for students with the set-up of their project displays, and a presentation to the national judging panel. This year, student projects ranged from reducing food waste and water contamination, to planting reflective grasses along roadways to reduce vehicle-animal collision and developing an alternative to finger pricks for diabetics.

"The students work hard to compete at this national event, and I love seeing them set-up their booths and practice," Teymorian said. "It gives me the opportunity to hear about why they chose the challenges they did for the project, and to learn how big of a difference their work has already made in their local communities."

The top four national winners, as well as the People's Choice and Army Values teams were announced at an awards banquet on June 21. An additional five teams were recognized as "STEM in Action" recipients, who will receive funds to implement their solutions in their community.

"The creativity and enthusiasm that students bring to the eCYBERMISSION competition every year is truly inspiring," Weber said. "These students are becoming the next generation of thought leaders in science and technology, and it's amazing to be a part of that."


2018-2019 NATIONAL WINNING TEAMS:

Sixth grade: H.O.T.C.A.R.S., Lubbock, Texas
Alexa Tindall, Ethan Djajadi and Josiah Morales worked with Team Advisor Laura Wilbanks to help combat the issue of hot car related deaths by creating a device reminding parents when their children are still in the car.

Seventh grade: Oh, Deer!, Lubbock, Texas
Isaiah Baier, Aaron Barbee, Caleb Cole-Smith and Dimitrio Martinez worked with Team Advisor Laura Wilbanks to solve the problem of deer related automobile accidents by using flora illumination.

Eighth grade: Antastic Acids, Madison, Alabama
Neha Chopade, Puja Chopade, and Pranav Somu worked with Team Advisor Beena Chopade and came up with an innovative solution to non-recyclable multilayered food packaging which involves separating the packaging's individual layers so that each component can be recovered in its original form.

Ninth grade: Phantastic Phage Phinders, West Jordan, Utah
Kate Watson, Rachel Amedee, Abigail Atkinson and Gavin Grose worked with Team Advisor Lora Gibbons to identify isolated bacteriophages within the E. coli samples that could eventually be developed into two products that would serve either as a method of bacteria detection, or a method of bacteria elimination.

People's Choice: I-ANN Tech, Richland, Texas
Ivanie Leslie, Nolan Nguyen, Noel Obi and Ayah Said worked with Team Advisor Richard Embrick to design a compact bracelet that includes various health packages for people of different ages groups and sizes.

Army Values: Team Microfiber Fighters, Bay Village, Ohio
Sarah Knox, Boden McDougal and Gwyn Miller worked with Team Advisor Richard Gash to find a way to reduce the plastic microfibers being discharged into streams and lakes from washing machines using common household items.

Each member of the national finalist teams received a total of $4,000 in U.S. E.E. Savings Bonds (matured value), and each member of the national winning teams received a total of $9,000 U.S. E.E. Savings Bonds (matured value) each. Since the program's inception in 2002, eCYBERMISSION has awarded state, regional and national competition winners more than $10 million in U.S. Savings Bonds.

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The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) manages the Army Educational Outreach Program on behalf of the Department of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research & Technology. eCYBERMISSION is administered by the National Science Teachers Association under the direction of AEOP.

CCDC, formerly known as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), has the mission to provide the research, engineering, and analytical expertise to deliver the capabilities that enable the Army to deter and, when necessary, decisively defeat any adversary now and into the future. CCDC collaborates across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise and its own global network of domestic and international partners in academia, industry and other government agencies to accomplish this mission under the strategic vision of the Army Futures Command.