<span lang="EN" style='line-height: 107%; font-family: "calibri",sans-serif; font-size: 11pt; mso-ascii-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: "times new roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language: en; mso-fareast-language: en-us; mso-bidi-language: ar-sa;'><font color="#000000">Growingup in Brooklyn, New York, young Aisha Haynes had to answer the same toughquestion every high school student eventually has to answer: What do you wantto be when you grow up?
</font><font color="#000000">
The answer arrived during a summer camp program, where she was introduced to chemicalengineers. She already knew she liked science and math. So the idea appealed toher. "So, I went ahead and said, 'I am going to go and doengineering,'" she recalled. "And I stuck with it."

Today, Haynes is a research mechanical engineer at the Army's ArmamentResearch, Development and Engineering Center in New Jersey. She was recognized onFeb. 10 as a Modern-Day Technology Leaders award-winner at the 31st annualBlack Engineer of the Year Awards Science, Technology, Engineering andMathematics Conference.

Now she is giving back, trying to encourage others to learn about the STEMprogram and the field of engineering. At the conference, she was among morethan 100 Army leaders, who were joining forces with educators and other STEMprofessionals to mentor and mingle with students of all ages.

THE ARMY'S INTEREST IN STEM

"I think this entire conference is such a great idea, and I have watchedit grow over the years," said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of theUnited Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea.

The BEYA STEM Conference serves as an engagement tool for the DefenseDepartment, but it also offers students the opportunity to learn more aboutSTEM careers in all of the branches of service, including the Army, whichemploys STEM professionals in a variety of fields.

"I want to make sure [the students' eyes] are open to the reality thatthere is no limit to what it is they can do," the general said. "Iwant them to prepare themselves, because when opportunity meets preparations --that's when achievement occurs."

The Army Educational Outreach Program provides apprentice opportunities forhigh school students and undergrads. The program accepts more than 600 studentsper year at more than 20 Army locations and partners with 90 differentuniversities, according to the Army's Research, Development and EngineeringCommand officials.

RDECOM's 13,700 employees represent 5 percent of all Army Civilians. Thatincludes more than 10,000 scientists and engineers, spread throughout sevenfacilities. They represent 56 percent of the Army's Safety and OccupationalHealth Career Program, officials said.

"Anytime a person decides to come into the Department of Defense, theyhave made a commitment to public service," observed Maj. Gen. Cedric T.Wins, commanding general of RDECOM at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

"The fascination and creativity of these young folks gives me a goodfeeling that the Army will be able to meet its demand in the future. The young,talented scientists and engineers will be able to continue the work of thescientists and engineers we have now."

BUILDING FUTURE LEADERS

Haynes was fortunate enough to start her job right after completing herundergraduate degree. Working for the Army, she said, provided her with a lotof growth potential and additional education experience.

"They say true engineers have the knack at a very young age," Haynessaid. "They take things apart and like to see how things work. Somestudents will fail to have an opportunity, if they don't have a properintroduction to engineering at a young age."

In addition to her "nine to five," Haynes is a mother of daughterswho range in age from 5 to 17. Her daughters' high school will introduce themto the STEM program, she said. In many ways, they have had more opportunitiesthan she did growing up.

"If I started earlier, with an introduction to STEM, I might have takenmore opportunity when I was an undergrad, or even in high school," Haynessaid. "It would have probably put me further ahead than when Istarted."

That proper introduction was the major reason why Karyn Baines, the middleschool principal at Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland,brought a select group of students to attend the conference. During the event,she encouraged them to ask questions and interact with the vast array ofprofessionals representing the STEM industry.

"For our middle school students, this is exposing them to the differentSTEM careers," she said. "They are learning about STEM in school …but they have not seen it in action. It is bringing it to life for them."

This was Riverdale Baptist's first visit, but according to Baines, it won't bethe last. Her middle schoolers also had the opportunity to participate in amentor session, which provided some critical thinking and hands-on activities.

"When we could bring the future leaders, as you called them -- industry,current practitioners of the military and leadership -- bringing them all tothe same place and having a conversation with one another, we're passing onthis tribal wisdom," Brooks said. "This is really passing on thetorch from one generation to the next by simply having a conversation."

BUILDING BRIDGES THROUGH NETWORKING

The primary goal of the BEYA STEM Conference, according to the conferenceorganizers, is to foster relationships between students, educators, and STEMprofessionals and connect individuals with STEM resources. For DOD, theconference has the added benefit of providing a proper forum for young professionalsto network with recruiters.

"Now that technology is increasing and becoming more popular, people wantto come to these conferences," said Arafun Azad, a psychology major whograduated from SBU. "From a younger age, you're kind of building your waytoward your career."

At the conference, Arafun was accompanied by a couple of her SBU peers: AbrarHossian, a senior and mechanical engineering major, and Fathea Azad, a healthand nutrition sciences graduate. The three spent a majority of their time lookingfor future opportunities in their fields.

"I was considering [joining the military], and maybe sometime in thefuture I would look into it and see if that was an option or an opportunity forme," Hossian said.

The time he spent at the conference, combined with the information that he hasreceived from several of his friends, has taught him that the Army, as well asother services, can lead to many different job opportunities in the field ofengineering.</font></span>