WINCHESTER, Va. - USACE professionals volunteered their time and expertise to support young mathletes at a regional MATHCOUNTS competition Feb. 9.

Supporting programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education may inspire young people to pursue careers in STEM fields, which play a critical role in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leaders of the global marketplace, and enabling the Department of Defense and army to keep our Nation secure.

MATHCOUNTS is a national enrichment, club and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement through grassroots involvement in every U.S. state and territory. It is now in its 30th year.

The students who train for and compete are called mathletes. They complete three rounds - two worked individually and another worked as a team - solving basic math and word problems involving algebra and geometry. Regional winners will continue on to the state competition and eventually, the national competition in Washington, D.C.

"The math that our children are taking in school is a higher level then when we were children," said Transatlantic Division's lead mechanical engineer Ravi Seam. "We've seen a boom in math education over the last 25 years because technology has penetrated the lives of people so that math has to start at an elementary grade. Math is the foundation of all science, engineering, and technical professions. Career opportunities for these students are endless."

MATHCOUNTS provides a means for encouraging young students to realize how important math and science are as an integral part of the world around us.

"Math and science can be exciting especially if we as engineers and scientists can get these young math and science students to understand how they relate to everyday life," said Greg Michaels, Middle East District fire protection engineer. "The MATHCOUNTS tests demonstrate that connection through simple and increasingly complex problems. The students learn when they start with simple math equations they then can build into more complex formulas and hence solutions to difficult problems."

Nine USACE volunteers took part in MATHCOUNTS as coaches and mentors, including Annie Cain, Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward, Alicia Embrey and Seam from the Transatlantic Division and Elizabeth Prusch, Iqbal Singh, Mo Mostaghim, Peter Russin, and Michaels from the Middle East district.

"Mathematics is the gate and foundation of all that we do," said Ward, Transatlantic Division's Command Sgt. Maj., while addressing the students at the competition. "Mathematics has played a very important role in the world by building up our modern civilization and perfecting all sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and engineering. Mathematics is important to all of these sciences. Simply put, mathematics is the science of all sciences and the art of all art. You are our future, and I'm confident that our great Nation is in great hands."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, through its Transatlantic Division and Middle East District, both headquartered in Winchester, Va., is responsible for engineering, construction, and related services in the Middle East, central Asia, and other areas as required. The work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces, performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies, and providing operations and maintenance services for various customers. In addition, the district provides project management, engineering, contracting and support services to the two USACE districts in Afghanistan.