Grant to boost youth’s engagement in research

The Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education (NWO) at BGSU is one of three organizations nationwide to receive funding from the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP), in collaboration with Battelle.

The $50,000 grant will help NWO increase the number of underrepresented students participating in the Ohio Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (OJSHS) in March 2017 and beyond. The program will recruit and train 30 to 60 underrepresented students and their teachers from Toledo Public, Lima City and Fostoria school districts with the purposes of engaging the students in scientific research and STEM studies.

“This grant represents an important goal we’ve had for quite a while for the Ohio Junior Science and Humanities Symposium: to dramatically increase participation in this very high profile, statewide science research competition by students from underrepresented groups or economically disadvantaged areas,” said Dr. Bob Midden, NWO director.

NWO will reach out to teachers in Toledo, Lima and Fostoria schools who have been mentors or research guides or who may be interested in participating, asking them to identify potential student candidates for the program. It will use the AEOP funding to hold a monthly series of all-day Saturday workshops for students and teachers. The workshops will introduce the event and explain what skills are needed to compete, help generate ideas and let students get started on their projects’ plans and procedures, and then develop their poster or oral presentations.

“We’re excited about the opportunity this provides the students and also about the attention it will draw to the program to increase its impact. We hope the level of participation will increase in subsequent years,” Midden said.

AEOP offers students and teachers Army-sponsored programs that effectively engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent. Through AEOP’s suite of programs, students from elementary school to college, representing all proficiency levels and ethnic, economic and academic backgrounds, participate in real-world experiences involving STEM disciplines. Scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians, who act as mentors and guides, introduce students to the various opportunities in STEM fields through hands-on experiences and provide advice for technical skill development and career planning.

AEOP’s new partners were selected specifically for their leadership in STEM learning and outreach to African-American, Hispanic, female and military-connected students. Together with these partners, the Army seeks to enhance existing programs to provide the highest quality experiences and contribute to an exceptionally prepared workforce.

“We’ve seen firsthand the power of partnering with strong local communities to provide even more students with high-quality STEM learning and mentorship,” said Jeffrey Singleton, director of basic research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. “By further expanding AEOP’s network, we are able to ensure students from all backgrounds, particularly those from underserved and underrepresented communities, have the opportunity to engage in programs proven to help students develop knowledge and skills that prepare them for real-world careers.”

“Hands-on learning and career exploration opportunities allow students to develop a sense of possibility for their own futures,” said Aimee Kennedy, vice president for education, STEM learning and philanthropy at Battelle. “For many students, these experiences are breaking down stereotypes of what STEM careers look like and how to pursue them.”

The other grantees are Johns Hopkins University's Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute and the Center for Educational Outreach in Baltimore, Md., and Washington STEM in Seattle.