Explaining complex concepts to children is one of Noel Soto’s strengths and a key reason why the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command recruited him to work with the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics team. Soto, an electrical engineer, supports the DEVCOM STEM program by visiting local schools and speaking to students about the equipment that Soldiers use daily.
“After I explain how Soldiers use the equipment, I challenge the students to find ways to make it better. The most important takeaway is to speak their language…don’t use words they don’t understand. If I see their eyes glaze over, then I’ve lost them,” Soto said.
Soto is familiar with the equipment that Soldiers use, after serving four years as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
“Seeing the children’s eyes light up when they understand a concept is rewarding, and I see STEM as the way of the future. It is important to get children interested in career fields such as science and engineering, before they opt for other careers,” Soto said.
When Soto recently visited a local high school, one of the students shared his idea to develop a solar blanket with a built-in battery. Soto liked the idea so much that he is working with a vendor to see if it is viable. On a visit to a local middle school, Soto worked with the teacher to tailor his presentation to the current curriculum.
Soto stresses the importance of making his visits to local schools fun.
“I don’t consider working with children at STEM events a lot of work. I consider this fun,” Soto said.
Soto also supports the Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers, or HEROES, program, a joint research and development initiative between University of Massachusetts Lowell faculty members, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and DEVCOM SC researchers and scientists who develop new technologies to empower Soldiers. The HEROES initiative accelerates research and innovation by tapping into the intellectual assets and research facilities of both organizations. Soto serves as a consultant for the HEROES program, sharing his knowledge of electrical power.
About 5,000 square feet of UMass Lowell is dedicated to the Heroes program. The Heroes team focuses on these project areas: 1) chemical/biological, thermal, fire microbial, insect and ballistic protection; 2) aerial delivery and Unmanned Aircraft System; 3) portable power and wearable electronics; 4) human augmentation and human systems integration; 5) sensors for chemical/biological agents; and 6) nutritional intervention. DEVCOM SC researchers and scientists also have access to laboratories across the UMass Lowell campus, which include design, synthesis, engineering and testing labs, as well as nano-fabrication facilities.
“Reaching out to children to get them excited about math and science is one way to build the workforce. STEM is also vital for our national security. The country can’t continue to keep a leading edge if we don’t have people with the right technical skill set,” Soto said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and partners.