Friday, January 29, 2016

Veteran eCYBERMISSION Volunteer Ready for a New Year!

Sarah Cheney has always been really interested in STEM. Growing up, her parents were both teachers so it comes as no surprise her engineering route and her excitement with always finding any STEM program she could get involved with.

Sarah went to school for plastics engineering and has worked for the past 10 years as a Materials Engineer developing packaging for the Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as MRE. Just recently, she transitioned into a Program Acquisition Specialist role, so she’s not doing as much of the engineering anymore, but is still able to do
STEM demonstrations focusing on plastics and materials.

Involvement with the eCYBERMISSION Volunteer Program

Sarah was initially a volunteer Virtual Judge with eCYBERMISSION for two years and then switched to become a CyberGuide. She’s been in this volunteer role the past three years and enjoys being able to talk students through the program and engaging with the teams.

Sarah has also volunteered for two demonstrations at the annual eCYBERMISSION National Judging & Educational Event (NJ&EE) during the STEM workshop period. Sarah did a MRE packaging demonstration session during the STEM workshop. She brought in MRE crackers and had the students test and analyze the crackers and the packaging.

Sarah’s Experience as a Volunteer

During her STEM demonstration at the 2014 NJ&EE, Sarah had a young boy in the group that was so interested and paid such close attention during the entire demonstration.
“I’ve always liked STEM, but meeting this student, really showed me what a difference you can make in getting someone interested in STEM,” said Sarah. “It was absolutely wonderful having this kid participating in the workshop.”

Sarah’s STEM demonstration taught the students about the water activity and oxygen concentration in the MRE packages. The students loved it but the one boy in particular really opened Sarah’s eyes to the huge difference STEM mentors can make.

Patience is a Virtue!

Since volunteering with eCYBERMISSION, Sarah has learned patience. Being able to explain things in different ways can be a challenge.

“If the students don’t understand, it has taught me that you really have to change your approach in order to get the students to understand what you’re trying to communicate,” said Sarah. “It helped me to understand different learning styles and showed me the diversity that’s out there.”

In Sarah’s free time, she is spending time with her husband and 5-year old twins.

“We’re big in to the outdoors, with most of our time being spent camping and hiking a lot,” says Sarah. “Anything that makes the kids happy is good for me.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Employee Time! A Staff Member Helps Take Army Program to New Heights

Say hello to Jarod Phillips, a new employee at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)!

Native of Oklahoma City, Jarod has a military background having served in Iraq for two year as a foot soldier in the Army. He also served two years in upstate New York and three months in Georgia. After his service in the Army, Jarod obtained a degree in Communications and moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked in the communications field for a couple of years in non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Jarod is Project Manager for Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) and Camp Invention Initiative (CII), which is owned by Invent Now. Both programs are under the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) portfolio either through spo
nsorship or partnership and supported by NSTA.

GEMS is a non-residence summer camp that is held at locations across the country where there is an Army research laboratory. The program allows junior high/high school students the opportunity to work with near-peer mentors in the lab to learn about STEM, based on a curriculum created by the lab.

Outside of NSTA, Jarod spends a lot of time doing activities with his 2-year old daughter Madeleine and wife Jackie. These activities include playgrounds and a lot of shopping trips during the day.

“I love to play games that are social,” said Jarod. “I enjoy going to public places to play games with people I may or may not know, as opposed to playing the traditional video games at home.”


Jarod has long been a part of the “hobby store” scene, where you’d go and play Dungeons and Dragons or random card games.

Coming from the Army in some ways helps inform a lot of the decisions Jarod makes in his new role as project manager for GEMS/CII.

“A lot of the people I work with are Army civilians and families which helps me understand and guides a lot of the outreach that I do here at NSTA for the STEM programs,” said Jarod. “I look forward to really growing the GEMS program, because there is a need for it. I also want to impact more students’ lives.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

eCYBERMISSION Volunteers Help Power Student Innovation

Our volunteers play an integral part in supporting and helping to build students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This past competition year, team “Power Up” sought to use the kinetic energy captured through gears, turned by revolving doors in high traffic areas to power LED lights. Their national winning project was an innovative way to address the alternative energy solution of crowd harvesting and yield costs savings for their community.

Volunteers Spark Innovation

Working with eCYBERMISSION teams that create these innovative projects are volunteers who spark the teams' engines and encourage them to explore STEM. Who are these volunteers? People like Army Sergeant Robert Hollins, who serves as a power station mechanic stationed in Hawaii. As a mechanic, Sgt. Hollins maintains the engines that produce large amounts of power for various applications - running lights for buildings, air conditioning, and water pumps.

When Sgt. Hollins is not working, he volunteers as an eCYBERMISSION Virtual Judge and CyberGuide. When he first started volunteering, he served as a Virtual Judge for two years while on post as a Medical Laboratory Specialist conducting bio-research.

“As a Virtual Judge, I often times saw the pitfalls some of the teams were going through and I wondered how teams could be steered towards putting out more insightful project results,” said Sgt. Hollins. “This is what led me to become a CyberGuide, where I could actually interact with the teams and provide insightful answers to a variety of questions. Being a CyberGuide allowed me to assist teams with crafting a better report for their Mission Folder.”

Sgt. Hollins loves to bike ride for fun and enjoys taking in the sites of Hawaii. The beautiful climate, water, and land make every moment enjoyable for day-to-day adventures, including snorkeling and hiking.

"I know people do this for a particular benefit, but I do it because I have a love for science and learning," says Sgt. Hollins. "I see eCYBERMISSION as a development tool for kids to use their minds and to see that spark of light shine while building interest in STEM."