2025 Awards

2025 Award Nominations Now Open!

The purpose of the QCESC STEM Awards is to pay tribute and recognize Science and Engineering Professionals whose exceptional achievements and outstanding contributions have made a lasting impact on technology, society, and their profession. This includes helping to promote and raise the awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and education in our local communities and schools.

2025 Award nominations are now being accepted for the following wards:

  • Computing Professional of the Year
  • Junior Scientist of the Year  (< 36 years old on 12/31/24)
  • Junior Engineer of the Year (< 36 years old on 12/31/24)
  • Senior Scientist of the Year (36 Years or older on 12/31/24)
  • Senior Engineer of the Year (36 Years or older on 12/31/24)
  • STEM Teacher of the Year
  • STEM Volunteer of the Year
  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Access the nomination form here

Deadline: December 9, 2024

For further information about the QCESC Awards, please e-mail Susan Eckert

2024 Award Recipients will be announced at the STEM Celebration on February 22, 2024.

2023 Award Recipients

QCESC 2023 Award Recipients

Jeff Melvin, Trenton Humphrey, Paul Yaklin, Steven Etheridge (accepting on behalf of Kim McMaster) George Oelschlaeger, Steve Gustufson, Kara Mitvalsky, Dr. Binto George (and professional society, IEEE Iowa-Illinois Section, not pictured)

2023 Award Recipients

QCESC 2023 Junior Engineer of the Year:  Trenton Humphrey

Trenton Humphrey is an Environmental Engineer for Stanley Consultants, Coralville, Iowa.  Since joining the firm in 2018, Trenton has done much to distinguish himself.  He achieved his Professional Engineer license and was promoted to project manager overseeing $500,000 in projects that include hazardous waste and polyfluorinated substances sampling, radon testing at Army facilities, managing multiple stormwater programs and decommissioning an aging coal-fired power plant with three boilers.

Trenton has performed asbestos inspections at over 30 corn and wheat processing plants.  He has completed a 40-hour Site Safety and Health Officer certification for the United States Navy; one of just three in the company with this level of certification, and he has written multiple safety plans for site studies throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Trenton is an active member of the ASCE Eastern Iowa Young Member Group and has served as chair for the golf outing which raises funds for things like Derecho cleanup efforts.  He has participated several times in his office’s bi-annual Adopt-A-Highway trash pickup along Hwy 95, organized an office-wide food raiser for HAACP, and judged concrete canoe competitions.

Trenton has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

QCESC 2023 Senior Engineer of the Year:  Kara Mitvalsky

Kara Mitvalsky is the Acting Assistant Chief of Design Branch at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, previously serving as a Senior Environmental Engineer with 29 years of public sector experience at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  She is also the owner of Dragonfly Environmental, LLC. Kara has been involved in ecosystem restoration planning, design, construction, and monitoring within the Upper Mississippi River Basin under multiple program authorities and serves as a technical reviewer for these types of projects across the United States.  Kara also works on dredged material management and disposal projects, flood control projects, recreational projects, and hazardous, toxic and radioactive waste projects.  She co-authored and served as technical editor on two versions of the Environmental Design Handbook which provides guidance and lessons learned on multiple habitat design elements within a large riverine system.  Kara has also been published in the SAME Military Engineer and the ASCE Leadership and Management in Engineering publications about the importance of mentoring in technical fields.  Kara is a professional engineer licensed in Iowa and Illinois.

Kara is a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), once serving as Junior Secretary, and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  She spends time volunteering with the Bettendorf Conservation Committee, the Bettendorf High School swim team, and Bettendorf Aquatics swim team, and helps with flag routes for the Optimist Club.  She has previously served as vice president of the Paul Norton Parent Teacher Association and served as a Charter Member Representative for Boys Scouts of America Illinois Council (Pack 54), and on the Bettendorf Community School District Improvement Advisory Committee.  Kara volunteers for her Bettendorf church, previously serving as deacon and on the nursery school committee and with a church in Morrison, volunteering for community meals.

Kara has a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

QCESC 2023 Senior Scientist of the Year:  Steve Gustafson

Steve Gustafson is a Geological/Environmental Protection Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District.  He is responsible for addressing environmental concerns for Corps projects across five states. In addition to dealing with contamination issues, he is heavily involved with the Corps Upper Mississippi River Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Program, and is the technical lead for the Red Rock Dam Foundation Geotechnical Investigation.  Outside of the Corps, Steve works as the Quad Cities Project Manager for the Mobile, Alabama Osprey Initiative and as an Environmental Geologist for Riverside Global. He is also a water quality subject matter expert for the Eastern Iowa Community College EaRTH Center.

Steve is vice chair of Partners of Scott County Watersheds, a member of the Scott County Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) committee, Bi-state Conservation Action Network (BiCAN), Nahant Marsh Education Center Board, Iowa DNR State Preserves Board and the Scott County Waste Commission Xstream Cleanup committee, and a volunteer for the Bettendorf Schools Mobile Food Pantry.  He shares his expertise with the Rock Island Soil and Water Conservation District, Bettendorf and Rock Island Community School Districts, Augustana College, St. Ambrose University and Lourdes Catholic School.  Steve is founder of the Bettendorf Natural Resources Committee, cofounder of the Quad Cities Miracle Field (honored to throw out the first pitch at the grand opening) and founder/coordinator of the Jefferson Neighborhood Christmas Project helping over 200 penurious families and 100 seniors for the past 16 years by organizing a network of donors.  Steve states his most significant accomplishment is, “Being able to help solve environmental-related problems, and make the world a little better in the way God designed me to do.”

Steve earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Geology from Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois.    

QCESC 2023 Computing Professional of the Year:  Dr. Binto George

Dr. Binto George is a professor at the Western Illinois University (WIU) School of  Computer Science, Macomb, Illinois.  He serves as acting director of their Cybersecurity Center, coordinator for the Cybersecurity/Networking Lab and point-of-contact for the National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD).   Prior to joining WIU, Binto worked as an Assistant Research Professor at Rutgers University.  Binto is a Certified Ethical Hacker and CipherTrace Certified Cryptocurrency Examiner. Binto is also a partner for CSTRENDS LLP.

Dr. George volunteers for cybersecurity conferences like CornCon, is a coordinator and trainer for LeatherHack, and a presenter for Kids Science Saturday.  He is a member of many committees and advisor for the Cybersecurity Enthusiast Club.  His research included developing secure concurrency control and buffer management protocols for multilevel secure database systems. Binto has authored numerous journal articles and books in the area of computer security and artificial intelligence. He is a senior member of IEEE, and volunteered in various capacities at IEEE including the Chair of IEEE Iowa-Illinois section in 2022.

Dr. George has a Bachelor of Technology in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, India, a Master of Technology in Computer and Information Sciences from Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi, India and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Supercomputer Education and Research Center, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.

QCESC 2023 STEM Teacher of the Year:  Kim McMaster

Kim McMaster is the Library Media Specialist at Bicentennial Elementary School, Coal Valley, Illinois.  With a passion for STEM education, she moved from teaching fourth grade to become the Library Media Specialist in 2014.  Since then she has made a major impact on how the district views the Library Media Specialist position, and completely changed her school’s vision for the library and its programming.  She implemented in-school and after-school makerspace and 3D printing clubs, LEGO education, multiple coding opportunities, monthly STEM challenges and more!  She hosts a parent night for school makers with over 50 student participants, yearly.  Kim even takes additional summer courses to learn more about STEM education on her own dime.

Kim is a member of AISLE, ISTE, NEA, IEA and IDEA.

She led teachers in a year-long STEM professional development, resulting in teachers implementing STEM education in their classrooms.

Kim earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University, Dekalb and her Master’s Degree in Reading from Western Illinois University, Moline.

QCESC 2023 Volunteer of the Year:  Paul Yaklin

Paul is a committed volunteer in the Quad Cities with more than ten years dedicated to the advancement of STEM on both sides of the Mississippi River.  He has supported STEM events, volunteered at the QCESC Putnam summer engineering camps and participated in many STEM-based community presentations.

Since 2017 Paul has consistently volunteered more than 1,000 hours per year to FIRST® Robotics.  He is currently the lead coach and design mentor for  FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC)  8813, The Winter Soldiers – a five time Iowa Regional Championship Inspire Award winning team.

In addition, Paul has mentored FTC team 14832 at Rock Island High School. He supported his FTC team’s efforts to coach two FIRST® LEGO League (FLL) Challenge teams at the Martin Luther King Center; one of which qualified for the 2019 State Championship.  Paul also supported his FTC team’s FLL Explore program at the Rock Island Skip-A-Long Daycare along with summer STEM camps for youth in Rock Island. Currently he supports after school STEM programs at Rock Island Academy.

Paul is a Staff Engineer at John Deere Global Crop Harvesting Product Development Center in Silvis, IL.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University and completed courses toward a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University, Kansas.

QCESC 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award:  George Oelschlaeger

George Oelschlaeger worked as a Quality Manager for John Deere Seeding, Moline, before his retirement in 2002.  Following retirement until 2014, he worked at the same location as a contract employee developing new assembly methods, executing new computer processes, and implementing the powder coat paint system.  His career at John Deere spanned 49 years and included roles such as Design Engineer, Project Engineer, Manager of Testing, Manager of Reliability, and Manufacturing Engineer.  George is a member of ASAE and ASABE.

His career highlights include:

  • Adding hydraulic cylinders to the TWA disk harrow which carried forward to the new line of disk harrows introduced in 1974.
  • Developing an assembly line and shipping method for factory assembled planters.
  • Taking a green field site and helping to design and implement the manufacture of new John Deere Air Seeders and Tools.

A devoted volunteer, George has decades of community involvement with the YMCA, Boy Scouts of America, Junior Achievement, Nova Singers, and many other organizations.  He is the set builder for the Rockridge High School Drama Department, a 9 ½ gallon Mississippi Valley Blood Bank donor and an active member at his church.

He has patents for things like a lift assist mechanism, safety lock for hydraulics cylinders and narrow transport disk harrow, and written a technical paper for the semi-integral moldboard plow.

George earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, and took graduate courses at the Quad City Graduate Center, Augustana, Rock Island, Illinois.

QCESC 2023 President’s Award of Merit: Jeff Melvin

Jeff Melvin, P.E., is a Senior Corporate Strategic Engineer with Constellation Energy.

Jeff’s real passion is giving back. He has been a part of QCESC since 2007 when he attended his first banquet and attended his first meeting. He has worked with his employer to support a QCESC scholarship ever since.

Jeff has been a part of a lot of “firsts”: Jeff has been a head referee and judge for both FIRST Lego League and FIRST Tech Challenge. He worked on some of the first STEM Teacher Night Out events. Jeff was a part of the first attempts at the QC Tech Challenge, especially the Battle of the Bridges where he has served as Director since 2013. He was in the first group that founded the Link #271 of the Order of the Engineer. Jeff was the first to facilitate getting the QCESC into the Chamber of Commerce in 2014. He was the first Professional Development Director. He also served as president from 2011-2012. If the QCESC needed something done, Jeff Melvin has been the one to get it done.

When Jeff is not helping with STEM, he is an off-ice Official/Statistician for the Quad City Storm, is an annual ShotLink/Scoring Team Leader for the John Deere Classic, and is the Davenport Course Chairman for the QC Marathon. This superman has given over 3300 volunteer hours in the Quad Cities since 2010. We are honored to have his contributions help the QCESC, and are proud to call him a friend.

Jeff earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Arkansas Tech University.

QCESC 2023 Society of the Year Award: IEEE Iowa – Illinois Section

The Quad City Engineering and Science Council is pleased to present its 2023 Society of the Year Award to the IEEE Iowa-Illinois Section.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Its mission is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

The IEEE Iowa-Illinois Section is very active, holding many meetings and conferences throughout the year.  In 2022, IEEE held five Tech Talks, monthly “Cybersocials” networking sessions, and quarterly planning meetings.

One of the most noteworthy events that the Section hosts is the two-day event called CornCon Cybersecurity Conference, held last Fall. This conference included presentations and discussions from over 50 speakers and experts in cybersecurity.

In addition to the Conference seminars and speeches, the Conference also held two days of events for youth. At the Children of the CornCon “H. S. Cyber Careers & Competition”, high school students explore becoming the next generation of possible cybersecurity experts and possible career opportunities.  And, on the last day there was a “Children of the CornCon Kids’ Hacker Camp”, where students  K-12 attended sessions on ethical hacking, coding, electronics, and games.

More information about the IEEE Iowa-Illinois Section can be found at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Iowa.Illinois.IEEE/

The awards were first established in 1966, initially with the Engineer of the Year award. Since then, additional awards have been added including:

  • 1995 – Scientist of the Year
  • 2000 – Society of the Year
  • 2007 – Lifetime Achievement
  • 2010 – STEM Teacher of the Year
  • 2013 – STEM Volunteer of the Year
  • 2023 – Computing Professional of the Year

Past Award Recipients Listed by Year (1966 – 2022) 

The QCESC will celebrate 60 years of awards in 2026!