It’s not every day that an Army officer and UCF leaders interrupt a class to surprise a student with a military award unlike any other.

Steven Horvath, a Mechanical Engineering student, was awarded the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, the first time a college intern has received such an honor from the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). The military considers the medal a high honor that is rarely given.

Horvath and his classmates were expecting a guest speaker on ethics during Mechanical Engineering Professor Faissal Moslehy’s class on Wednesday. Instead, Army Col. Michael Flanagan entered the room, followed by UCF President John C. Hitt, Provost and Executive Vice President Tony Waldrop, Vice President and Chief of Staff Rick Schell and additional Army staff members.

Everyone in the lecture hall was asked to rise as the medal was formally presented according to military procedure.

Horvath, of Coral Springs, was honored for superior service and many accomplishments achieved during his 18-month internship as a systems engineer at PEO STRI. Among them, he conceptualized an alternative emergency braking systems for a Moving Armor Target (MAT) to increase redundancy; he conducted a technical tradeoff study on energy reduction techniques for MATs to reduce costs; and he generated a process work flow that simplified the creation of new live training standards.

He also co-authored a research paper that will be presented next week at one of the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training conferences, known as “I/ITSEC.” The research involves using modern technological advances such as cloud and virtual computing to enhance distributed training.

“Steven’s work has kick-started a new direction in training our soldiers,” said Col. Flanagan, Horvath’s commander at PEO STRI. “Last spring, he brought together more than 120 industry, government and academic partners to help us leverage the power and efficiency of cloud computing to train soldiers in multiple locations.”

In August, Horvath also was awarded a Department of the Army Special Act Award for outstanding performance.

Fascinated by flight simulation and how things work since childhood, Horvath pursued a mechanical engineering education at UCF. His education, combined with his real-world experience at PEO STRI, has sparked his interest in systems engineering, training and project management.

Horvath is set to graduate magna cum laude in December and to begin a new job in January as a crew training engineer for a Navy contractor, Bechtel Labs in Charleston, S.C. In that role, he will train Navy personnel to operate nuclear submarines.

“I feel so much gratitude towards UCF and the College of Engineering and Computer Science for the opportunities that have come my way,” Horvath said. “My education and my internship are the reasons I will have a job in January.”

“Steven is one of the brightest and most determined people I know,” said Col. Flanagan. “During his internship, Steven has contributed his technical expertise in a variety of ways that have positively impacted training effectiveness afforded to our soldiers. His knowledge, can-do attitude, and enthusiasm have made him an incredible asset to the U.S. Army. UCF can be proud of Steven, as he is definitely headed toward a bright and successful future.”

A picture and description of the medal can be found here.