A $17 million education grant from the U.S. Army will allow Virginia Tech to take the lead in teaching math and
The grant will focus on educating students from fifth to 12th grade in STEM fields, short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
With the grant, Tech is now the lead organization of a national cooperative agreement to determine what kind of teaching affects interest in math and science.
Tech’s main role is that of creating a marketing strategy, collecting data and developing programs based on the data
Partners in the initiative include The University of New Hampshire’s Leitzel Center, George Washington University, the Junior Technical Engineering Society, Academy of Applied Science and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
The U.S. Army has supported youth science outreach for youth and teachers for more than 50 years.
“Their aim is to prepare the work force creating a science and technology literate people,” said Mark Bernhard, director of Tech’s continuing and professional education.
Amy Parlo, Tech’s STEM K-12 Outreach Initiative Coordinator, explained the grant would unite programs funded through STEM outreach.
“They decided to consolidate the program and look at how efficient it is. Now we are bringing it under one umbrella,” Bernhard said.
“The individual programs have been successful, but we learned that they can be more successful if we coordinate efforts,” said Steve Culver, Tech’s associate director of academic assessment.
Culver is heading the research portion of the project.
He will be collecting and analyzing data in hopes of improving existing programs and creating more opportunities for STEM experience.
“As our world becomes more and more connected, opportunities abound for those with education in the STEM-related fields,” Culver said. “We’re creating all kinds of connections. That’s the fun part, creating a nifty network.”
Culver noted the grant funding allows Tech to build on its own STEM outreach programs.
Tech runs programs including Kids’ Tech University, the C-Tech2 summer camp program, and a STEM Mobile Learning Lab in Danville, Va.
Parlo also works with master’s students at Tech who are seeking licensure in science teaching.
She works with the professional development of Virginia’s practicing teachers through Tech’s Distance Delivery master’s program.
“I believe it is my experience in both of these areas that lends itself to our efforts to participate in STEM-related youth programs like the Army’s Youth Science Cooperative,” Parlo said.
According to a release from Tech, the grant will pay for the hiring of three full-time Blacksburg-based staff members, including a project director.
“Our part of the grant will be utilized for staffing including leading and working with partners, creating a marketing strategy, collecting data and equipment and materials,” Bernhard said.
Bernhard said Tech will see effects down the road, as early as summer 2012.
Culver said the research will determine how effective the programs are and whether they really lead to more people entering the math and science fields.
“Things we find might lead to changing curriculum here,” Culver said. “Not just programs or the implications of programs, but how to use it for a better identity in other places.”