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University System offers pre-engineering program grants to Oregon K-12 schools

Contacts: Bruce Schafer, Director, OUS Industry Affairs; Office: 503-725-2915; Cell: 503-332-4666; Ken Cone, Project Manager, OUS; Office: 503-725-2918

University-industry council encourages schools to apply by October 11th for grants

Portland, September 13, 2010: The Oregon University System (OUS) and the Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC) today announced the continuation of two grant opportunities for Oregon K-12 schools for implementation of pre-engineering curricula and activities for students. The funding is a component of ETIC’s goal to increase pre-college engineering programs and engineering degrees in order to meet state and industry needs for a highly-skilled, globally competitive workforce in Oregon. 

The available grants will support: 1) the eCHAMP program, which helps schools fund coaches and mentors to support engineering and technology youth teams modeled after athletic teams 2) start-up funding and training for schools and teachers to implement the nationally-renowned pre-engineering curricula of Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

Bruce Schafer, OUS executive director of industry affairs and ETIC, says, “It’s important to introduce young people to engineering and technology early so that they can keep education and career doors open for decisions later in life.  Through pre-engineering programs in middle and high schools, Oregon students can experience the fun, excitement and creativity in these fields.  Plus, they can learn why math and science can lead to rewarding, diverse careers.”

ETIC encourages Oregon middle school and high school leaders to view more information and apply for these grants at www.ous.edu/bapp/bopps/view/2201. Grantees will be determined through a competitive application process.   Grant programs are available for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Applications should be submitted by October 11, 2010 for the 2010-11 eCHAMP program, or by January 14, 2011 for the 2011-12 eCHAMP and PLTW programs. Awards will be announced in early December and early February.

The eCHAMP program helps schools to pay for coach mentors and start-up equipment for high school robotics and engineering teams participating in programs like FIRST® Tech Challenge and others. Youth engineering teams generally attend a regional or statewide competition to share their results and compete for awards, and benefit from the learning, inspiration, teamwork, scholarships, and rewards that competitive activities provide.  The program helps schools encourage and reward academic innovation by their teachers, and helps students see why they should take math and science classes seriously.  

The ETIC grants will provide stipend funds to be matched by the school district with the goal of expanding this student learning opportunity to more Oregon schools. The funds can be used to pay half the stipend cost for engineering or technology coaches (school employees and teachers) as well as up to $4,000 for first-year materials and equipment to get a new program started. There are numerous team programs already in place for schools to adopt, including FIRST® LEGO® League, FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Robotics Competition, Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams, Oregon Game Project Challenge, and Design for the other 90%.

At The Dalles-Wahtonka High School, a 2009 eCHAMP grant helped support a team of bright students who took numerous awards last year for their robot’s performance and research in FIRST Tech Challenge, and many of these students have already decided to study science or technology in college.  One of team members, Lucas Broehl, says, “You have such a clear goal throughout the whole experience. It keeps you focused.”  Principal Stephen Jupe says, “Anything we can do to make high school more stimulating and rigorous in a true sense should be done.”  In fact, there has been so much student interest generated as a result of the robotics team, that the high school will be offering a robotics class this fall.

Project Lead the Way (PLTW)
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a nationally recognized pre-engineering curriculum program offered in many high schools across the country. In 2007 it was recommended by the National Academies as one way that U.S education could become more competitive. The program gives students the opportunity to learn about engineering and technology in an academically rigorous way at the same time they learn the connections between engineering and traditional math and sciences courses. Selected Oregon schools will receive grants underwriting some of the start-up costs of the PLTW program, including support for teacher training, classroom equipment, supplies, and software.

PLTW provides curricula and evaluation tools so that teachers can focus on teaching rather than creating materials. Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) offers a rigorous two-week institute each summer that allows teachers to learn how to teach a particular PLTW course at the same time they gain hands-on experience with the technology associated with the course. These summer workshops plus ongoing support from the national PLTW program help assure that teachers will be successful in teaching PLTW courses. So far, over 100 Oregon teachers have attended PLTW training at OIT and over 40 Oregon schools are offering at least one PLTW course.

Studies have shown that PLTW students achieve significantly higher scores in reading, math, and science.2 Steve Day, principal of the Health and Science School in the Beaverton School District chose implementing the program at his school because of the achievement gains that students receive through PLTW. Because of the demonstrated success of the program, ETIC is committed to help more Oregon schools adopt the curriculum, and give more students access to this tremendous learning opportunity.

The Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC) is a public-private partnership that was launched by the Oregon Legislature in 1997. This innovative legislation successfully brought the state’s universities and industry together in full collaboration with clear goals: graduate more and better engineers, computer scientists, and technologists; and expand research. The partnership is made up of executives representing a wide variety of industries from throughout Oregon as well as leadership from Oregon universities. For more information on ETIC, go to: www.oregonetic.org  

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities and one branch campus, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services, and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of twelve members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu.

1 Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, prepared by the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, pp. 5-16.

2 A study done by the Southern Regional Education Board was particularly persuasive in this regard. See Southern Regional Education Board Research Brief, July 2009, http://www.sreb.org/publications/2009/09V15_PLTW_Research_Brief.pdf

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