HARLINGEN — Two cadets from the Marine Military Academy are now $200 richer thanks to an award from Naval Horizons for their STEM essays. Naval Horizons is a U.S. Navy and Marine Corps internship where students learn about Naval STEM challenges with scientists and engineers via a video series.

Cadet Aidan Kenney, 18, from Midland, Texas, who is in the 12th grade, was honored to have his essay posted on the Naval Horizons website.

Cadet Charles Drapela, 17, from Boerne, Texas, and also in the 12th grade, received a cash reward as well.

Kenney wrote about seal whiskers and how they are a source of inspiration to how windmills work. Kenney was then inspired to keep researching about ways technology was developed by what happens in nature. He won the honorable mention because of how his essay was presented.

“I didn’t mean to win, but I thought it was a nice opportunity,” Kenney said.

Drapela wrote about mechanical engineering and chemical engineering and said he also did not imagine he would be winning. Both wrote their essays for leisure and because they are interested in the STEM industry.

“I want to apply to the Naval Academy and study mechanical engineering or aeromechanical,” Kenney said.

They both said they are comfortable writing essays and have taken the English courses necessary to help shape their writing skills.

The two cadets learned they won the cash awards last week.

“I was shocked. Actually, I did not expect to win and much less to have my essay on the website. That was really cool,” Kenney said.

“It was kind of eye opening,” Drapela said.

Both said they will use their cash awards for college. They have both applied to several colleges and universities. Kenney has applied to Notre Dame and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology but has the Naval Academy as his first choice. Drapela is planning to attend Texas A&M but has been accepted to Northern Arizona University.

Kenney said his time at MMA has been a very unique experience, which has been helpful in time management and being prepared all the time.

“It has helped academically, and I don’t think I’d be in the same situation without it,” he said.

For Drapela it has helped him have structure, as well as leadership skills.

“It has also allowed me to become less of an introvert and more of an extrovert,” he said.