Grants help District 214 engage more students in manufacturing and STEM careers

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Three grants provided by GCAMP, or Golden Corridor Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, are helping High School District 214 engage more students in manufacturing and STEM careers.

The grants, totaling approximately $7,300, fund an after-school program for middle school students, underwrite a portion of a high-mileage vehicle competition for high school students, and provide VEX robotics kits for an early high school credit robotics class.

Middle schools students in sixth through eighth grades have already enrolled in the after school program, called Next Generation Engineers (NGE), at John Hersey High School. As part of the curriculum, students receive a hands-on STEM education as well as rigorous and relevant learning experiences through activity, project and problem-based learning.

The NGE after school program is also held at Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling high schools. NGE participants are more likely to enroll in a STEM career pathway in high school, as well as have a higher GPA than non-NGE participants, according to Dan Weidner, Director of Academics and Pathways for District 214.

The second grant will go toward VEX robotics kits for the early high school credit robotics class at MacArthur Middle School. The class is part of a partnership with the District 214 Wildstang Robotics team and Prospect Heights District 23, which share a multi-use facility to collaboratively engage students in robotics, engineering and technology programs and careers.

The grant funding takes educational robotics to the next level. The funding provides a wider variety of additional component parts so a team of students can build a robot that is bigger, stronger and more functional. The students also develop greater knowledge of mechanical systems and computer programming through hands-on learning with the VEX kits.

The third grant underwrites a portion of the operational costs for the Illinois Energy Efficient Vehicle Competition that will take place in April at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet. Last spring was the inaugural event at Autobahn that brought together teams across Illinois to compete with their energy efficient vehicles.  

As part of the competition, students design, build and test a small one-person vehicle with a focus on gasoline mileage or electrical energy efficiency.  The vehicle that burns the least amount of fuel wins. In years past, Illinois schools traveled to Wisconsin to compete. The new Illinois competition provides schools in Illinois with increased access and opportunities to participate. 

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