Great Minds in STEM HENAAC conference returns to New Orleans
This three-day event focuses on STEM-related competition, recognition and inspiration for Hispanic professionals and youth
By Claire Swedberg
The Quest for Competitive Greatness is the theme for this year’s Great Minds in STEM Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards (HENAAC) conference, which will be held October 2-4 in New Orleans, LA. This will be the first conference of the 2018-2015 school year for national STEM recruitment. For students who attend, this means getting a leg up on others with an early start on internship options and fulltime employment leads.
The HENAAC conference was launched in 1989 to inspire underserved Hispanic STEM students by bringing together students and professionals once a year. The conferences provide networking opportunities for professionals and college students, learning programs for middle and high school students, and resources to connect educators to the latest STEM innovations. The conference also recognizes and showcases STEM leaders and technically talented Hispanic students. Travel grants and scholarships are available for students and scholarships are part of many competitive awards.
Rebounding after a tough year
This year’s conference is also focused on rebounding from a difficult 2013. Last year’s event was challenged by the U.S. government shutdown that kept some government agency workers from attending, and by tropical storm Karen which barreled through New Orleans during the scheduled conference.
“We look forward to welcoming back our corporate professionals as well as re-engaging with all of our government attendees who weren’t able to join us in 2013 due to the shutdown,” says Julie Magallanes-Guevara, Great Minds in STEM public affairs manager. “We have many talented and qualified STEM students who are excited about the face-to-face interaction they will have with STEM professionals during the conference.”
To keep students motivated to enroll in STEM programs, she says, “We must provide personal engagement and mentoring with STEM professionals as they pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees.” Events like this conference provide “platforms for STEM success,” she declares.
At a senior executive session hosted by IBM, high-ranking leaders from public and private sector organizations will meet to discuss key topics in STEM. The focus is on closing the STEM technical workforce gap that remains for underrepresented minorities and females. Participants will stress the importance of preparing more students for STEM-based careers.
Each year the HENAAC Conference draws top executives from Fortune 500 and government agencies to interact with students and young professionals. In fact, the conference has a student-to-professional ratio of one to one.
This year’s host sponsors are Lockheed Martin, the Boeing Company, Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Northrop Grumman. Academic hosts are Tulane University, University of New Orleans and Louisiana State University (LSU). NASA, Shell Oil and the U.S. Army will sponsor student events.
Spotlight on talent
The program will begin with a salute to service men and women as part of the STEM Military & Civilian Heroes Reception, held at the National WWII Museum. Great Minds in STEM will honor talented professionals who have dedicated their careers to protecting and aiding the nation’s warfighters through the use of STEM. This event is hosted by the Boeing Company.
The 26th HENAAC Awards show is the nation’s largest Hispanic STEM recognition event and the focal point of the conference. At this gala event, winners will address an audience of professional and student attendees, family members and friends.
Student workshops and competitions
Students will have the opportunity to attend resume writing workshops, take part in corporate tours, participate in roundtable discussions and meet protégé mentors.
One major event, hosted by NASA, is the fifteenth HENAAC College Bowl competition. This two-day, high-energy program builds excitement in STEM methods for students as well as professionals. The program allows students to showcase their talents, initiative, teamwork and leadership. Defending College Bowl champions, sponsored by the Walt Disney Company, will go up against twenty-nine other corporations and government agencies in 2018.
For younger students, the conference will again offer the Viva Technology Middle School and High School program. Five hundred New Orleans-area students will take part in competitive STEM activities that give the participants a perspective on how engineering impacts the real world. The students are partnered with university students from Tulane, the University of New Orleans and LSU. These Viva Technology programs are sponsored by Shell Oil and the U.S. Army.
Just for educators
In addition, a K-12 Educators Institute will provide a three-and-a-half-day forum where educators from across the country will share new curriculum and updates on national math and science standards. Through the institute, educators can take part in technical field trips. They will learn about active-learning projects and culturally relevant materials that can be implemented in their classrooms.
The finale: scholarships!
More than 100 academic scholarships will be awarded to Hispanic STEM students from across the country at the Student Leadership Dinner. This formal dinner, which is the conference finale, will showcase the accomplishments of STEM college and graduate student attendees.
“Highlights of the dinner will include the presentation of the undergraduate and graduate Student Leadership awards to the top scholars, announcement of the Class of 2018 Scholars, Technical Papers and Posters competition winners, and College Bowl winners,” Magallanes-Guevara reports.
This year the conference is expected to attract more than 3,000 attendees from across the country.
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