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NEWS | Jan. 8, 2018

Army showcases STEM for local high school students

By Sgt. Ian Valley 345th Public Affairs Detachment

Over a thousand high school students from around the country descended on Sunset Station in downtown San Antonio, Texas, for the Go Army Experience Zone Ten80 STEM program. The workshop, held Jan. 5, was part of the 2018 Bowl Week in support of the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

This event included everything from a panel of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subject matter experts, to code and circuit building, to placing micro-engines on paper airplanes. The students interacted with cutting-edge technology during the hands-on experience while the experts provided one-on-one guidance. 

 U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Katherine Branham, the aide-de-camp, or executive assistant, to the deputy commanding general for the 416th Theatre Engineering Command, was one of the speakers on the panel and provided a unique viewpoint on her path to finding a career in the STEM fields. 

“I knew what I wanted to do when I was very young,” said Branham. “My father took me to the Kennedy Space Center to watch a rocket launch. I was close enough to feel the vibrations in my chest and head and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

The Army Reserve gave Branham the opportunity to pursue her dreams as an engineer. She enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the Florida Institute of Technology, where she earned a degree in mechanical engineering before accepting her commission as an Army officer. She then joined the Federal Aviation Association as an aerospace engineer. The opportunity the Army Reserve gave her is something she hopes will inspire young minds at this event.

“When I meet kids out here who are going through what I went through and are so interested in STEM, I know that they are just trying to figure out what direction to run in,” said Branham. “I want to help and give advice when I see kids who are so passionate.”

Being in the Army Reserve allowed Branham the time to focus on both of her careers, something she said gave her an advantage over her peers.

“Being in the Army Reserve has had an amplifying effect on the civilian world,” said Brenham. “A lot of fledgling engineers when they graduate need to find a job. But they have no leadership or team experience. You need that in a professional environment. Being in the Army Reserve for a few years before starting my civilian career allowed me to walk into a leadership position instead of starting at the bottom.”

The All-American Bowl Go Army Experience Ten80 STEM workshop showed the high school students what STEM possibilities exist in the Army.

“It’s not always carrying a weapon around,” said Branham. “There’s a big gap in perception on the amazing opportunities the Army and Army Reserve have to offer and about the skills that they can translate into their civilian careers.”

The Army Reserve prides itself on being the most capable, combat-ready and lethal reserve force in the world. With that comes being the most technologically-advanced fighting force possible.

“I think it’s pretty neat how all of our technology starts with the Army first,” said Travis Teague, a high school student from DeLeon High School in DeLeon, Texas. “They have the best equipment and the brightest minds in America.”

Like all students at the event, Teague is in his high school’s STEM program because he is interested in pursuing a career in one of these fields. Teague believes that it is only fitting that the Army has the best equipment and minds because their job is one of such importance.

“I think STEM is essential for progress,” said Branham. “You need innovation, you need creativity. You need people who are at the edge, pushing the boundaries.”