Virginia Tech is serving as the lead organization in supporting the Army Education Outreach Program’s efforts to nurture students’ interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. 

When Mark Bernhard, director of Continuing and Professional Education, learned about the grant opportunity, he began forming a university team to work with external partners to craft the proposal.

Key players included Steve Culver, associate director of the Office of Academic Assessment; Amy Parlo, of VT-STEM and the School of Education; Machelle Hall and Janet Webster from the Office of Sponsored Programs; and Scott Weimer, assistant director of Continuing and Professional Education.

“The Office of Academic Assessment is excited to be part of such a broad-based consortium focused on improving STEM education,” says Culver. “We look forward to documenting the effectiveness of the educational innovations of these programs.”

The $17.2 million, three-year grant brings 10 various national STEM outreach programs under one umbrella. The effort is coordinated and funded by the Army Research Office and the Army Educational Outreach Program, which is managed by the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology.

Competitions, internships, mentoring, and science fairs for fifth-grade through post-college graduates, as well as K-12 teachers and college faculty, are some of the activities being delivered through this initiative.

“As the VT-STEM coordinator, Amy Parlo, is a member of the School of Education, we are delighted to help further our nation’s STEM efforts through this partnership,” said Sue Magliaro, director of the School of Education and associate dean for professional education.

Virginia Tech’s primary responsibilities will include marketing, data collection, and measurement components. 

External partners include

  • The University of New Hampshire’s Leitzel Center, which operates a strong Teach-the-Teacher program and other STEM initiatives;
  • George Washington University, which has responsibility for four STEM programs including math-and-science internships in Army laboratories for students in grades seven to 12;
  • Junior Technical Engineering Society, which runs summer programs called UNITE for economically disadvantaged high-school students interested in engineering;
  • Academy of Applied Science, which is responsible for four STEM programs that are designed to increase students’ awareness of the Department of Defense’s interests in scientific research and provide incentives and recognition to further students’ pursuits of STEM; and
  • Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, which runs the Junior Solar Sprint, a program that teaches middle school students about scientific inquiry, properties of materials, photovoltaic cells, forces and motion, and more through designing, building, and racing innovative and speedy model solar electric cars.

“This was a real team effort that led to our successfully securing this award,” said Bernhard. “I’m very appreciative of the efforts of all my Virginia Tech colleagues as well as the support and input provided by our consortium partners. We’re looking forward to our work with the Army to increase the number of students pursuing studies and careers in STEM fields.”

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