Monday, March 22, 2010

Virtual Judge Profile - Maryann DiDonato

The following is a profile of Maryann DiDonato, an eCYBERMISSION Virtual Judge

Maryann is currently a student at Kettering University and works as a co-operative student at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). A more in-depth interview with Maryann can be found in the April issue of the eCYBERMISSION newsletter. 

The students who compete in the eCYBERMISSION competition are in middle and high school, enrolled in grades six through nine. And sometimes, the Virtual Judges who score their Mission Folder projects are not too far ahead. As a 20-year-old senior at Kettering University in Michigan, Virtual Judge Maryann DiDonato remembers when she was in middle school and first became interested in science and math.

 

“I’ve been interested in science since I was 10 years old,” she said. “I just love math and science and knowing that there’s always one answer for a math problem makes life that much simpler."

Now, 10 years later, DiDonato is studying mechanical engineering at one of the top undergraduate engineering universities in the country and working as a co-operative student at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) at Detroit Arsenal in Michigan.

“I’m working on the emerging armor team and my specific project is weight reduction for the Ice Pack Jr., a new armor system that we’re developing,” she said. “After I graduate next  spring, I hope to keep working at TARDEC and want to continue working in survivability to protect our men and women overseas."

DiDonato registered to be a Virtual Judge at the eCYBERMISSION road show at TARDEC in January. When she read the e-mail that went out in advance of the visit, she made it a point to visit the registration table that day.

“I used to be a mentor for a First Robotics team through General Motors and since I left I’ve been looking for a new opportunity to help out people in the community, so it seemed like a good idea,” she said.

DiDonato was happy to register as a Virtual Judge and excited to begin scoring her assigned Mission Folders because she recognizes how important it is for students to become involved in programs, such as eCYBERMISSION, at an early age.

“The kids I mentored in First Robotics were from an inner city school, and keeping them involved and mentoring them was so important because the program made them more likely to go onto college,” she said. “Kids at that age are more impressionable and if you get them involved in these types of programs, they’re less likely to get involved in bad stuff and more likely to succeed later on if they see the benefits of getting a good degree and staying in school."

Although this is her first year as a Virtual Judge, DiDonato can speak from personal experience as to not only the importance of programs such as eCYBERMISSION, but also the Team Advisors who mentor the students.

“I was involved in the Michigan Science Olympiad in high school and was really inspired by my chemistry teacher, who was in charge,” she said. “He was a retired Navy captain and a nuclear engineer. He was a great mentor to me throughout high school and always made me want to do my best. I want to help other kids like he helped me.”

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