By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOMDecember 19, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Dec. 19, 2012) -- The U.S. Army honored three civilian employees, Dec. 19, for their commitment to enriching students' experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM.
Dale A. Ormond, director of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, thanked the employees for their efforts with the eCYBERMISSION program and presented each with a Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
"It's great things to get kids engaged in science and engineering, looking at problems and coming up with innovative solutions. None of this is possible without volunteers," Ormond said. "Science, technology and engineering is going to make a difference, and we have to get our young people involved."
RDECOM is the Army's executive agent for the eCYBERMISSION program, a free web-based STEM competition for sixth- through ninth-grade students, in which teams compete for awards while working to solve problems in their community.
The award recipients are Lauren McNew of the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications Tactical; Philip Chan of Army Research Laboratory; and Christopher Tarsi of Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.
Each award recipient volunteered at least 100 hours during a 12-month period in support of eCYBERMISSION.
The program relies heavily on volunteers to provide a successful experience for students, said Louie Lopez, RDECOM STEM outreach program manager. In the 2011-12 school year, about 15,400 students participated and 1,773 adults volunteered as ambassadors, cyber guides and virtual judges, Lopez said.
"Our cyber guides provide three to five hours a week over an eight-month period of registration and submission," Lopez said. "They are critical to our students and teachers since they provide the technical expertise.
"Our virtual judges also play an important role," Lopez said. "Last year, we had about 3,500 projects submitted. Each one has to be graded five times. That's 17,500 scores we have to generate within a one-month period. As we increase our program, we're going to need more and more volunteers. That's why these volunteers we're honoring today are very important."
McNew has volunteered with eCYBERMISSION for three years and was named cyber guide of the year for the 2011-12 competition. She said she enjoys the flexibility offered through the program.
"The best part about eCYBERMISSION is you can volunteer as much or little time as works for you," McNew said. "If you want to be a cyber guide, you come online when you're available [to] answer questions for students. Or you can be an ambassador and go to schools and talk to students about getting involved. You can be a virtual judge on your own time. There isn't anything that gets in the way of volunteering for your community."
Chan has been volunteering in local and national science fair competitions since 1999 and with eCYBERMISSION as a virtual judge and mentor since 2005. He is working to build a STEM program for home-schooled students in the Baltimore area.
"If you're interested in science and engineering, this is the right time to volunteer," Chan said. "In 1999, I had to physically open the books and go to the library to dig up resources. Now everything is everything within reach on a laptop, iPhone or iPad. Everything is in front of you now."