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June/July 2010

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Great Minds in STEM: “honoring the past, powering the future” in Florida

The annual conference includes students, educators and tech pros. Government and the military are big participants

STEM can be as thrilling as sports, GMiS CEO and founder Mellado firmly believes. At last year’s conference, the Viva Technology! team works on a wind turbine.The signature awards event and conference for Hispanic technical professionals comes east in 2010. The Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL will host the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC), produced by Great Minds in STEM (GMiS), October 7-9.

The event is expected to draw several thousand attendees: technical professionals and students, government and military technologists, along with corporate, academic and government/military sponsors. This year’s theme is “honoring the past, powering the future.”

The conference will include the traditional elements that have been in place for more than twenty years: workshops, recognition events, a panel of top technologists and educators, a giant career fair and a range of other activities for college students and professionals. One key difference this year: awards for activities in education, community service and diversity will be presented at a separate event on the day of the main awards ceremony.

More participation ops
Ray Mellado.This year there will be additional opportunities for participation by K-12 students, parents and teachers under the GMiS “Viva Technology!” educational program. “We explored participation by teachers and younger students in 2009, and this year we are hoping to involve from 400 to 600 students, their teachers and their parents,” says Ray Mellado, CEO and founder of GMiS. Students and teachers from neighboring Florida counties have been specially invited, he adds.

Both “Viva Technology!” and the “STEM-Up” initiative, the community-based educational programs of GMiS, have made big strides this year, Mellado says. Viva Technology! provides middle and high schools with self-directed programs designed to engage inner-city and rural
K-12 students in STEM subjects with an eye to increasing enrollment in college STEM majors. The program ran in fifty-seven locations in the 2009-10 school year, Mellado reports.

2010 supporters for these initiatives include Boeing, the CIA, Motorola, Shell Oil, the U.S. Army, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. The CIA, Mellado notes, has been an active participant, providing information and materials that demonstrate both the intelligence community’s use of technology and basic principles of intelligence gathering.

STEM-Up gets going
Part of the happy crowd found networking in the hall between sessions last year. STEM-Up, which involves students from kindergarten through grad school and includes participants from industry, is now active in three cities: Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; and the original location, Los Angeles, CA. Current STEM-Up partners are Cal State-LA, the Department of Defense and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The goal is “AIMS”
In both its programs and its national conference, Mellado says, the “logic model” of GMiS is contained in the acronym AIMS: awareness, inspiration, motivation and skills. “We are concerned with all the STEM pathways: the fourteen-plus-year journey to become an engineer. We want students to know it’s a journey that will pay off for them and their communities.”

Hispanic Caucus helps host lunch
Rafaela Ornelas-Schwan.A completely new event will complement the October conference this year, says Rafaela Ornelas-Schwan, Great Minds in STEM director of development. “The board and staff were interested in expanding our presence with government and in the Washington, DC area,” she notes.

The result: the first annual Hispanic STEM legacy luncheon will be launched on September 16. The event, to be co-hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), will honor past HENAAC award winners and recognize Hispanic heritage month. “We’re hoping to get CHCI more involved in STEM education,” Ornelas-Schwan says. Sponsors are Boeing, ExxonMobil and others.

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