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February 2, 2010

NC State engineers awarded STEM education grant from NIH

North Carolina State University engineers have received a $519,000 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the impact of engineering curricula in elementary schools.

Dr. Laura Bottomley, director of the Engineering Place at NC State, Dr. Jerome Lavelle, associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs in the College of Engineering, and Liz Parry, coordinator for external and school partnerships in the College, and were awarded the grant for their project entitled “Do Engineering Curricula Improve Science and Mathematics Learning in Elementary School?”

The research will examine the increasing academic interest in STEM disciplines in K-12 schools, as many programs emphasizing STEM are either in place or under development. The researchers’ work aims to assess the most effective methods of teaching these concentrations in K-12 classrooms in hopes of furthering retention among students and ensuring that STEM studies do not become pigeonholed as an educational fad.

The researchers have significant experience in K-12 education. The Engineering Place, which Bottomley leads, is NC State’s K-20 engineering outreach program and reaches more than 5,000 students, 500 parents and 200 teachers each year. Lavelle, in addition to his work leading the office of undergraduate affairs, is responsible for leading proposal efforts for increased access to engineering for students across the UNC system and the state’s community college system, as well as expanding that access into K-12 schools. Parry is the designated trainer for “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum in the southeast US for the Museum of Science, Boston.

This STEM grant is one of 22 being awarded by NIH in accordance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Researchers across the nation will receive a portion of the $18.3 million distributed by the NIH over two years in an effort to attract more students to biomedical and behavioral science careers and improve science literacy.

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