Army program targets Hispanic engineers

Carlos Sanchez, a student at Cal State presents his work on an ARL project about Swarm technology to Dr. Juanita Harris, acting RDECOM executive deputy to the commanding general, during the Army Materiel Command/RDECOM-sponsored poster contest at the Hispanic Engineer National Awards and Achievement Conference. | U.S. Army photo by Tom Faulkner, RDECOM

PASADENA, Calif — An inspired Army presence took part in the 29th annual Hispanic Engineer National Awards and Achievement Conference here Oct. 18-21.

The conference, hosted by Great Minds in STEM and its corporate sponsors, brings together Hispanic scientists and engineers from throughout the country to recognize their achievements and to introduce young, promising science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students to a national showcase.

HENAAC was deemed a success by Army coordinators, with members of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command projecting a unified, professional presence that resulted in adding 41-plus new members to the Army STEM workforce. The outreach effort supports the second line of effort in RDECOM’s Campaign Plan, which requires the organization to recruit, train and maintain a diverse and highly skilled corps of scientists, engineers and supporting occupations.

During the first luncheon of the conference, Dr. Miguel Hinojosa, Army Research Laboratory, and Humberto Hernandez, Aviation-Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, were presented STEM Hero awards by Dr. Juanita Harris, acting RDECOM executive deputy to the commanding general. STEM Hero awards were presented during the National Defense Awards Banquet to acknowledge individuals for their sustained, professional efforts in STEM fields.

In a new Army exhibit unveiled at HENAAC, members of ARL and five of the RDECOMs’ six research, development and engineering centers worked together, conducting face-to-face interviews and recording several “face time” interviews with prospective candidates during the career fair the final day of the conference.

“The collaborative effort between AMC, RDECOM and all the centers and lab created lots of synergy,” said Nicole McKew, RDECOM human capital outreach specialist and coordinator for the Army recruiting effort.

The team collected 284 resumes and extended 41 job offers or interest letters to student prospects at the conference. The number of job offers may rise once laboratory managers review the resumes that were collected. The Army recruiting effort was also on par with industry recruitment as defense contractor Northrup Grumman offered 45 positions during the career fair.

The Army exhibit space, recently purchased by AMC, housed three Army technologies and several display monitors to attract student interest.

Harris delivered a personal message entitled: “Diversity in Thought” during an executive seminar session. She challenged the young people in attendance to, “Be bold. Be innovative. But be true to yourself to bring all that you are to the table.”

AMC and RDECOM were one of three sponsors of the undergraduate and graduate scientific poster contests, with 99 posters displayed. Harris listened to nearly every student as they presented their research findings reflected on their posters.

“I was impressed with not only the knowledge they possess and the professional way they presented themselves, but also in their eagerness to take what research they’d been doing or areas where they had been focused and seeing where they can apply those — either for the Army, the Air Force or the Navy — across the whole DoD infrastructure. That was most impressive,” Harris said.

She also noted the students’ behavior during the conference.

“Everyone was respectful. They weren’t pushy, they waited their turn. They weren’t looking at their watches; very few were looking at their cell phones. Usually you get around a bunch of teenagers and that’s all they do. That was not going on at HENAAC.

“They came with copies of their resumes prepared and ready to provide. They could communicate what their strengths and skills were. Some were a little hesitant at first, but if you asked questions indicating your interest in who they were and what they brought to the table, they were more than happy to meet you there.

“I was impressed with the entire body of students at HENAAC,” Harris said.

The RDECOM-sponsored College Bowl team captured third place in a competition that featured 24 teams, each led by a different corporate sponsor. This year’s competition was tightly contested with each of the top three teams finishing with 5-0 records in head-to-head matches. The final standings came down to individual member scores.

The 11 students on the RDECOM team each won a $200 scholarship.

Erica Fineman-Bertoli, CERDEC Outreach team lead, was head coach for the Army College Bowl team, assisted by Carelyn Martinez from AMRDEC, and Jose Gonzalez from ARL.

“Opportunities to participate in programs such as the HENAAC College Bowl give us the chance to get to know some incredibly talented students in a way that is otherwise not possible during a standard career fair,” Fineman-Bertoli said.

“The students who participated on the RDECOM team demonstrated not only their intelligence, but their skills in teamwork and communication. Those who coached the team were able to introduce the students to RDECOM engineers at the career fair and offer more than just an assessment of their transcript or resume. We were able to tell the hiring managers that these students would be an asset to RDECOM and to Army,” she said.

“This was my third year coaching a college bowl team for RDECOM, and I can say — unequivocally – that this was the best, most talented group of students I have had the honor to work with. Their third place victory was a testament to their dedication, creativity and innovation.”

By Roger Teel, Research, Development and Engineering Command