Meet Our Awardees

DoD STEM Ambassador

Stars Illustration

This program recognizes outstanding educators and promotes STEM learning across the nation. DoD STEM Ambassadors are carefully chosen by the Department of Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) and DoD STEM based on their commitment to working with students who have been historically underrepresented in STEM and/or are military connected.

AEF Award Icon (sml)Albert Einstein Fellowship pThe Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF) Program provides a unique opportunity for accomplished K-12 educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to serve in the national education arena.
DoD SMART SEED Grant Icon (sml)DoD SMART SEED Grant pThe SEED program competitively awards research grants up to $100K per year for up to a maximum of three years to help support promising SMART scholars establish a foundational research / engineering effort in their area of expertise as they transition from the pursuit of their Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) to an active Department of Defense (DoD) professional.
DoDDoD STEM Ambassador pThe DoD STEM Ambassador Program recognizes outstanding educators and promotes STEM learning across the nation.
SMART Scholar & Mentor of the Year Icon (sml)SMART Scholar & Mentor of the Year pThis award recognizes SMART scholar and mentor pairs who demonstrate exemplary achievements during the pursuit of their SMART-sponsored degree.
STEM Advocate of the Quarter Icon (sml)STEM Advocate of the Quarter pThis award recognizes outstanding STEM education and outreach efforts that help to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders while furthering the mission of the Department of Defense.


Albert Einstein Fellowship

DoD STEM Ambassador

SMART Scholar & Mentor of the Year

STEM Advocate of the Quarter

Julio Avasan
DoD STEM Ambassadors  Icon (sml)Julio Avasan

High School Engineering Teacher

Julio is a math and engineering teacher at Olympian High School in San Diego, California. His passion is teaching mathematics to students who, at times, have not been given the opportunity to conceptualize and truly experience its meaning and beauty.  Julio seeks to include engineering ideas when teaching mathematical concepts to encourage students to develop a STEM identity. He particularly enjoys working with multilingual learners to help them grow as future professionals while learning English as a second or even a third language. Julio holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from San Diego State University, and a master’s degree in STEM education from the University of San Diego.

“Teaching is an incredible profession because we get to work with talented kids who learn to explore the beauty of mathematics through problem-solving, hands-on activities, research, and real-life applications.”

DoD STEM Ambassadors Icon (sml)DoD STEM Ambassador
Julio Avasan
Dr. Crystal Ricks
DoD STEM Ambassadors Icon (sml)Dr. Crystal Ricks

Advanced Learning Coordinator

Dr. Crystal Ricks is the coordinator of advanced learning for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has also served as and elementary school teacher, K-8 instructional coach, and inclusive programming specialist. Crystal has extensive experience with school improvement plans, curriculum design, instructional coaching, and curriculum and instruction. She has also led external reviews in multiple states with AdvancED (Cognia). Crystal holds a bachelor’s degree in childhood and special education and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. She is certified in administration and gifted and talented education.

“I believe in providing equitable access and opportunities to each student. When barriers exist, educators have a moral imperative to advocate for the diverse needs of our future leaders while pushing for equal access to STEM. As Shirley Chisholm said: ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’”

DoD STEM Ambassadors Icon (sml)DoD STEM Ambassador
Dr. Crystal Ricks
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