November 1, 2010
For years the U.S. Army has worked to entice schoolchildren to develop long-term interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Under a $17.2 million grant, Virginia Tech and partners will determine which programs work best not only in training teachers but also for children from fifth grade up.
Competitions, internships, mentoring, and science fairs are among the high-profile Army-sponsored STEM activities. The Junior Solar Sprint, for instance, teaches elementary and middle schoolers about pollution and climate change by putting them to work designing and racing solar electric cars.
Workforce concerns rise from a projected shortfall in scientists and engineers, both at the Department of Defense and throughout the nation. The Army Educational Outreach Program piques student interest early, enticing more college students to choose STEM disciplines. Under Virginia Tech’s leadership, three important milestones are expected to occur: marketing, data collection, and measurement.
Virginia Tech offices working under the three-year grant are Continuing and Professional Education, which is leading the project; the Office of Academic Assessment; and the university’s VT-STEM initiative.
Virginia Tech has a long tradition of fostering STEM outreach programs. Among those are Kids’ Tech University, which exposes schoolchildren to fun STEM lectures and demonstrations on the Blacksburg campus; and C-Tech2, which offers summer learning in engineering, math, and science for rising high-school junior and senior girls. At the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va., the STEM Mobile Learning Lab delivers hands-on activities to teachers and schoolchildren in southern Virginia.