UI Researchers receive $1.2 million grant

The Morning Show

The National Science Foundation recently awarded this grant. March 15, 2019 was the start date: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1850398. We will be implementing this initiative in partnership with a total of 24 middle and high schools spread throughout Illinois over the next three years.

Please share four talking points or subjects you would like included in the interview. (NOTE: These should be “big picture” points that give context to the interview).

1: The US economy needs significant growth in the size and the diversity of its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce to remain competitive. It is critical that more female, underrepresented minority, and low-income middle and high school students develop interest in and have access to educational pathways to these future jobs. However, students from these underrepresented groups often do not have adequate access to transformative STEM learning experiences. Thus, our fundamental project goal is to enable 1,000 middle and high school students from across the state to participate in sustained, intensive, hands-on STEM activities that build technical knowledge and ability and that offer insights into different STEM careers. Students will have access to these informal learning experiences through a newly launched afterschool/lunchtime STEM club at their school and/or a residential summer engineering camp at the University of Illinois.

2: Most educational initiatives focus on teacher training or student training. Our program is unique because we also seek to engage school counselors and understand their role as gatekeepers to informal learning opportunities and to educational paths into STEM. We believe that they are “untapped resources” who can greatly influence the academic paths and careers of students.

3: Our program focuses on building a team of STEM advocates at each school. We will engage key stakeholders – counselors and teachers in particular, but also enrichment coordinators, the principal, and other administrative staff. We will offer a two week summer institute in late July in each of the next three years. Teams of three participants from each school will come to the Urbana campus to: (1) share their insights and experiences, (2) learn best practices for promoting students’ interest in, pathway towards, and technical ability to pursue, a career in STEM, and (3) learn the technical curriculum necessary to launch the STEM clubs. They will take back and share what they have learned with the rest of the school staff as well as with students and their parents. The teams will receive a stipend and travel allowance and each school will receive $2,500 worth of equipment and supplies and $1,500 of flexible funding to support STEM club activities.

4: Later today, we will send out additional program details to partner schools and districts that indicated interest when we applied for the grant in August 2018. New schools can join the program as well. We will host a webinar tomorrow, April 4, at 3 pm and we will likely hold a second webinar early next week. Please contact me at lgoddard@illinois.edu for details.

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