Texas A&M Receives Motorola Math and Science Education Grant
COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M University is working to increase awareness of and participation in scientific and technological educational opportunities among teachers and students in south Texas with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable wing of Motorola Solutions Inc.
The grant, one of five across Texas and roughly 100 nationwide announced today by the Motorola Solutions Foundation as part of its Innovation Generation grant program, was awarded through the College of Science Educational Outreach and Women's Programs Office to support the South Texas Science Initiative (STSI), a collaborative effort to increase minority representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields by encouraging participation in the statewide Texas Science Olympiad, hosted annually by Texas A&M University.
"The future of American innovation depends on a diverse pipeline of critical thinkers who are well versed in STEM principles," says Matt Blakely, director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. "Through the Innovation Generation program, we are thrilled to partner with programs like the South Texas Science Initiative at Texas A&M to provide students and teachers with the necessary tools to explore their STEM interests and pursue innovation."
Specifically the STSI will help fund Science Olympiad preparatory workshops to train teachers in south Texas school districts and encourage student interest in the rigorous statewide competition, which is designed to test both the aptitude and imaginations of the next generation of scientists and engineers in a variety of subjects, from biology, chemistry and physics to earth science, computers and technology. The training will be offered via video conference in collaboration with Regional Science Olympiad directors Dr. James Silliman at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Dr. Ludivina Avila at South Texas College.
By exposing teachers as key student influencers to the Science Olympiad and its unique platform of challenging yet friendly and creative competition, program administrators hope to stimulate their interest and, in turn, that of their students in both the Olympiad as well as the plethora of potential STEM-related careers it spotlights.
"We are hopeful through this initiative that we will be able to enhance the growth of the Texas Science Olympiad throughout the South Texas region," says Dr. Nancy Magnussen, director of Educational Outreach and Women's Programs and state director for the Texas Science Olympiad. "The Motorola Solutions Foundation is very dedicated to science education and wants to be an integral part of preparing the youngsters in the Valley for careers in science and technology."
The grant will provide for the establishment of innovative video conference workshops throughout school districts in the Corpus Christi and McAllen regions to offer comprehensive training for area parents and teachers who will serve as coaches for newly established Science Olympiad teams. The workshops will feature useful tips from winning coaches of previous Science Olympiads on how to begin and expand the event at area schools as well as step-by-step demonstrations from event supervisors on the competition's 58 different contests.
One important element of the STSI specifically intended to broaden Hispanic outreach is the Spanish translation of the Science Olympiad guidelines and coaches' manual in order to better assist the significant population of area ESL (English as a Second Language) families who want to take part in the event. Magnussen, who has served as director of the statewide event for the past decade, has already witnessed an exceptional statewide increase of participation in the program, which has grown from approximately 40 middle and high school teams in 2001 to 185 teams in the most recent event this past April. By breaking the language barrier, she says the STSI hopes to appeal to a demographic that traditionally has faced challenges related to language, economics and culture, thereby better maximizing both presentation and access to opportunities for a better scientific and educational future.
With events like the Junkyard Challenge, in which students are required to construct devices to perform specific tasks, and Science Crime Busters, which tests students' ability to analyze data and perform laboratory tests, the Science Olympiad's fundamental goal is to promote teamwork among its middle and high school-aged participants with an appreciation for individual skills.
"Science Olympiad is an incredible tool for teaching science and engineering," Magnussen says. "It allows students who are academically gifted to excel and be recognized for their accomplishments much as the athletic program's successes are recognized. It truly is a program that offers a learning opportunity for just about all students."
For the past 10 years, Texas A&M has hosted the collective gathering of the event's regional winners, the Texas Science Olympiad. The blockbuster statewide finale brings 61 teams from across Texas -- approximately 1,000 middle and high school students -- to campus to showcase their talents. Magnussen says the exposure of some of the students impacted by the STSI to a major university could be critical to their decision to continue their education and attend college in the future.
"Our college is a traditional leader in scientific education and related community outreach, and the Texas Science Olympiad has become our flagship activity in this vitally important area," adds Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science. "Our partnership with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and South Texas College to introduce this education-based competition to south Texas schools previously limited by their access to such resources has tremendous potential. These children will now have another avenue to explore STEM disciplines and cultivate their own interests."
The Motorola Solutions Foundation's Innovation Generation program is designed to encourage student awareness and interest in STEM areas through funding, employee volunteers and intra-grantee collaboration. Thanks to an office based in McAllen, Motorola Solutions' involvement with the STSI is as much of an emotional investment as a financial one. Personnel from the Motorola Solutions facility will be onsite during the video conference workshops to offer assistance during demonstrations and to act as event supervisors for many of the contests that will take place during the South Texas Science Olympiad regional competition.
Founded in 2007, the Innovation Generation grant program has awarded more than $25.5 million to STEM programs nationwide, including $5.5 million this year to K-12 programs to support innovative science and mathematics programs and necessary teacher training and mentoring efforts. For more information on the grant program, please visit www.motorolasolutions.com/giving.
To learn more about Texas Science Olympiad and other educational outreach events sponsored by the Texas A&M College of Science, go to http://outreach.science.tamu.edu/scienceolympiad.asp.
Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or email@example.com or Dr. Nancy Magnussen, (979) 845-5587 or firstname.lastname@example.org