Fort Leonard Wood Post Builds Engagement through Recognition


FortLeonardWood-1-Sometimes just the simple concept of recognizing accomplishments and providing inclusion in a fraternity of other like-minded good citizens is enough to get people engaged in STEM and pay it forward for the next generation. For the SAME Fort Leonard Wood Post, it hasn’t been so much a dedicated program of STEM activities that has brought forth action among its membership, but a collective personal interest in giving back and being recognized amongst each other. Positive peer pressure, in other words.

SAME Posts are working to support STEM engagement and expand opportunities for America’s youth to get involved in STEM programs. SAME members often are asked by many to make choices on which STEM programs—from a multitude of good ideas—they could support.   The Fort Leonard Wood Post has participated in a number of programs, including judging school science fairs, and even coordinated programs like Project Lead the Way and USFIRST.  But what worked the best has been recognizing and celebrating STEM contributions.

FortLeonardWood-4-Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Missouri University of Science and Technology make a conscious and conspicuous effort to annually celebrate achievements–big and small –in STEM.  We are good at this after all, considering many Post members have had careers in the military hosting an awards ceremony, and hanging a medal around someone’s neck is a pretty easy learned behavior.  The ceremony is the easy part; the real work is done by the members on their own. The first year we came up with about 40 people who deserved a pat on the back: a few were teachers, some were business people who had thrown themselves into mentoring a class, some were U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees who took special visits to middle schools during National Engineers Week. The following year we draped an entire class for Engineer Basic Officer Leaders who en mass signed up to judge the thousand posters the fifth- and eighth-graders had done in a regional science fair. A local school board took a then-brave step of adopting a mass notification system and we figured that was a good public use of technology. So we gave them each a medal.FortLeonardWood-2-

After several years we called the past winners a STEM Academy and let them be the nominators of who gets the awards. Our standard is if they think some deserves recognition for use of science, development of technology, use of math, or, the local favorite, useful engineering, that is good enough for us.

It has turned out to still be true that people respond to recognition. People seem to keep doing positive things and are on the lookout for others doing positive things. They set examples and seem to be very happy with a medal that simply says “I Made a Difference in STEM.” Generals get awarded (sometimes) as do chancellors—but so do the city engineers, the technician everyone seemed to rely on at a manufacturing plant, the guy who trains soldiers on using robots, and a U.S. Geological Survey worker… and they all seem to be delighted to stand together in the sunshine for a few minutes.

We invite all nominees to an event once a year. We have had National Engineer Week dinners, an “Engineer Night at the Museum” and the last few years hosted an end-of-school-year picnic with the local SAME Student Chapter to say a few kind words about people’s quiet contributions and examples. We hang the medal and induct them into the Academy.  That works for them. This works for us.

(Contributed by Lt. Col. Stephen Tupper, P.E., F.SAME, USA (Ret.), Fort Leonard Wood Post)