Back in early March, before COVID-19 and social distancing, a huge room full of El Paso-area students showing off their science experiments, drones and robots was an inspiring sight.
At the Five Star Innovation STEM Cup and Robotics Competition at Western Technical College on March 6-7, drones whipped around the room, over and through obstacles; robots battled it out to see which had the strength to push another out of the battle circle; and students talked about their science experiments to judges from the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command.
More than 250 students from around the El Paso area competed in the engineering, robotics and drone competition. This was the first year drones were included in the competition.
The event, now in its eighth year, included workshops and presentations from Western Technical College’s information technology experts, cyber security experts and more. Military professionals from JMC judged the various challenges and competitions. The keynote speaker for the event was Col. Bert Shell, Joint All-Domain Command and Control Division Chief at JMC.
“Seeing the high-level science and engineering that El Paso students are involved in is truly impressive and inspiring,” Shell said. “As the Army and JMC focus on the future, it’s important to encourage our young scientists, engineers and inventors. That is why JMC participates in this event every year. Looking around, it’s clear our future is in good hands.”
Five Star Innovation works to cultivate tomorrow’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals in order to make the El Paso region the nation’s hub for STEM business and education. The competition helps students understand the world around them, develops and strengthens their critical thinking and problem solving skills, and teaches them the principles and concepts necessary for discovery and innovation.
Shane Haggerty, President of Five Star Innovation, said that having JMC’s military personnel leading and judging the Five Star Innovation STEM Cup and Robotics Competition, gives El Paso students a different, important perspective. Both civilian and military personnel from JMC and the El Paso chapter of AFCEA International volunteered at the competition in an effort led by Rod Chavez, Capabilities Integration Analyst at JMC.
“These military judges pose real-world questions and offer a perspective that is much different than a judge from a traditional science fair,” Haggerty said. “These JMC judges really force the students to sell themselves and their ideas. They make the students explain how their ideas can help the Army and the world. It adds an extra dynamic, and it’s what makes this competition special.”
The winners of the competition received scholarships to Western Technical College, a $250 cash prize and the permanent trophy, which will be on display at their schools for a year. The high school division winner was Cristopher Nunez from Montwood High School with his project on an autonomous weapon recognition and alert system. The middle school winners were sixth graders Adrian Ramirez and Devon Calvin from Parkland Middle School, with their project on a suicide prevention app.