February 5, 2024
Meet Gisella Lamas, a lecturer at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Chemical Engineering, who has a passion for STEM education and community engagement. Her journey with the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) and eCYBERMISSION as a Virtual Judge, and more recently, an Ambassador, has been both inspiring and transformative.
Getting Involved with AEOP and eCYBERMISSION
Gisella’s involvement with AEOP began in 2018 when she first moved to Kentucky from Texas. In the bluegrass state, she sought out local science fairs for her students to participate in, similar to the ones she used to engage in when she lived in Texas. Unable to find a local competition, she discovered eCYBERMISSION, which offered a unique virtual opportunity. Intrigued by the chance to combine community service with her teaching role, Gisella signed up.
As a STEM learning and community building advocate, Gisella found eCYBERMISSION to be a win-win situation. The decision to become a Virtual Judge was fueled by her desire to contribute to students’ growth and education, while also fostering the importance of community service in her students.
Since becoming a Virtual Judge in 2018, Gisella has reviewed numerous impressive projects, some even from 12-year-olds, showcasing not only prototypes but also well-crafted videos and handouts. These experiences motivated her to not only continue being involved with eCYBERMISSION, but also devise new ways to engage more members of the community, specifically the University, to further elevate the program and positively impact the experience of young participants.
Her college students have also become Virtual Judges. As volunteers, they have come to understand the importance of supporting the educational and STEM journeys of younger students. Over 15 of her students are currently planning to become Virtual Judges for this year’s eCYBERMISSION competition and help evaluate Mission Folders.
In the future, Gisella would like to work with more schools to implement eCYBERMISSION and is eager to involve her students as mentors.
Professional and Personal Impact
eCYBERMISSION has left a lasting impact on Gisella both professionally and personally. The process of providing feedback to young participants has refined her communication skills, benefiting both her college students and herself. Serving as a Virtual Judge has enhanced her teaching approach and improved her ability to support students in their academic journeys.
Additionally, she has leveraged the rubrics from the program as guidelines for her own classroom and implemented the feedback strategies to further enrich her classroom experience, fostering a more positive and supportive learning environment overall.
She has noticed improved communication with her students, because they understand her role is to support and encourage them.
Advice for Applicants
To those considering registering as an eCYBERMISSION Virtual Judge, Gisella emphasizes the profound impact individuals can have on others’ lives from the comfort of their homes. She encourages applicants, both students and volunteers, to understand the significance of their actions in contributing to the curiosity and growth of future scientists and engineers.
Through eCYBERMISSION, her students have been able to see the impact they have on younger students’ journeys, which has motivated them to become more involved with other community outreach programs.
Gisella’s final thoughts were for STEM educators: As a fellow educator, she highlights the need to adapt teaching methods, aligning with students’ interests to keep them engaged and successful.
eCYBERMISSION is a virtual STEM competition for 6th to 9th grade students that promotes teamwork, self-discovery and the real-life applications of STEM. Students work in teams of two to four, led by an adult Team Advisor, and select a problem in their community to investigate with science or solve with engineering. Throughout the competition, students work on team building and interact with STEM professionals while competing for state, regional, and national awards in the form of savings bonds. The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) administers eCYBERMISSION on behalf of AEOP.
eCYBERMISSION is a virtual STEM competition for students in grades 6 to 9 that offers students the opportunity to explore STEM in a real-world setting.More About eCYBERMISSION
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The eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant is intended to support teachers/program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION with their teams. Educators (formal and informal) of students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to apply. Special consideration is given to Title 1 schools and to those with underserved/ under-represented populations.