PASADENA, Calif. – Three members with U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, mentored a team of seven college students to a win in the Great Minds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math STEM Zone Competition Oct. 13-14, 2023.
Erica Bertoli, DEVCOM Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, and Luis Rodriguez, DEVCOM Aviation and Missile Center, served as the coaches, while Gihan Oraby, DEVCOM Armaments Center, served as an event judge.
The competition centered on Root-Cause Analysis, which focuses on the underlying or systemic causes, rather than the symptoms, of an incident to identify appropriate solutions.
“There are 100 students who participate in the STEM Zone competition, and they are randomly assigned to one of 10 teams,” Bertoli said. “Each team is assigned a random case study that is taken from a real-world incident. The team then has limited time to complete a root cause analysis of the issue and to create a 15-minute presentation to include their findings as well as their recommendations.”
The DEVCOM team was presented a scenario that was causing week-long delays and cost overrun.
“Our case study, ‘Nuts and Bolts,’ centered on a new transmission model that, during testing, lost six bolts, causing testing to be stopped and the entire line to be assessed,” Bertoli explained. “The team began work at 5:30 p.m. and had until 12:30 a.m. to complete the project.
“The coaches are there to help guide the students through their process; we act as mentors and helpers, but the work and the solutions belongs 100% to the students.”
The competition gave the students the chance to showcase their character, drive and problem-solving skills, but also to grow as leaders and teammates.
“While the situation is manufactured, we are still seeing how these students work together as a team, how they respond to stress and short deadlines, and how they adapt,” Rodriguez said. “In my opinion, being able to get together in six hours and solve a real-life situation speaks highly about the determination and dedication that they put into this effort.”
Concurrent with the competition, GMiS also held a conference aimed at providing students and industry leaders the opportunity to build relationships and learn more about each other.
“Over the years, we have brought some amazing students in to the workforce through participation in this event, and that is the real win, for us and for them,” Bertoli said. “We are able to talk big-picture questions about what it means to work at DEVCOM and to be an Army Civilian Engineer.”
Rodriquez also saw it as a beneficial opportunity to showcase DEVCOM.
“The students are able to see a snapshot of the DEVCOM culture,” he said. “Particularly in having the two coaches and judge from different centers, they can see that the support and the esprit de corps is command wide.”
As part of winning the competition, the seven students earned scholarship awards.