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SIUE and USTRANSCOM Extend STEM Education Partnership

Jerry Weinberg, SIUE associate provost for research and dean of the Graduate School.
Jerry Weinberg, SIUE associate provost for research and dean of the Graduate School.

U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have refreshed their initial partnership to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for the local 10-county Illinois region.

The organizations signed a second three-year Education Partnership Agreement (EPA) in July 2014, which enables USTRANSCOM, other military organizations at Scott AFB and SIUE to mutually benefit from the partnership.

Through the EPA, the partners support STEM activities through volunteers, donation of STEM-focused equipment and collaboration. The SIUE STEM Resource Center has received items from the base including computers and laboratory equipment, which are now available for local K-12 schools to use in technically focused classes.

“The Scott AFB STEM program engages in a wide variety of activities to encourage our youth to be excited about STEM and consider careers in those disciplines,” said Dr. Donald Erbschloe, chief scientist of Air Mobility Command and leader of the Scott AFB STEM program. “STEM activities introduce children in their early school years to technical fields that are also interesting, and sustain and encourage their interest through high school and beyond.”

“The partnership with Scott AFB, through US Transportation Command and the leadership of Dr. Erbschloe, remains a successful collaboration for delivering STEM knowledge and experiences throughout southwest Illinois,” said Dr. Jerry Weinberg, SIUE associate provost for research, dean of the Graduate School. “We welcome the next three-year partnership as a way to build upon our first successes in providing STEM equipment and activities for our local population.”

“USTRANSCOM’s donations of STEM equipment have significantly increased the number of students participating in hands-on STEM activities in the region,” said Dr. Sharon Locke, director of the SIUE STEM Center. “The donation of 12 robotics kits enabled us to support engineering instruction for 400 elementary and middle school students during summer 2014 alone. Because the kits are available for loan to any educator in the region, including local community groups, the impact is multiplied over many years.

“We estimate that more than 4,000 students have used USTRANSCOM-donated equipment during the past three years of the partnership. Additionally, 5,000 educators have searched the STEM Center’s online inventory developed with resources from USTRANSCOM. Through the online system, educators are able to browse our collection of STEM materials and find items to borrow at no cost to support their classroom and out-of-school instruction.

“The Resource Center helps individual teachers at all levels as well as scout groups, home-school parents, and other youth leaders by giving them the tools they need to teach STEM in a fun and engaging manner. The USTRANSCOM-SIUE partnership has greatly expanded our reach into rural and urban communities.”

“Providing equipment via SIUE to the area is just one area of cooperation for the base’s STEM program,” Erbschloe added. “We also work with organizations such as the Illinois Math and Science Academy, FIRST Robotics and directly with local schools to provide mentors, volunteers and encouragement for our youth to consider STEM as a lifelong interest and as a career.

“A robust population of technically-proficient young citizens is important to not only the future Department of Defense (DOD) but to our entire economy. The DOD itself recognized this importance several years ago and created the National Defense Education Program (NDEP), which provides resources across the nation, focused on areas near military installations.  Scott AFB has a wealth of experts in the STEM professions and is especially well-positioned to work with our neighboring educational partners and students.”

“The STEM program is truly an investment in our future,” Scott AFB’s 375th Air Mobility Wing Schools Liaison Officer Dr. Cindy Doil said.  “Schooling, either in our formal institutions or in the home, shapes the interests and lifetime activities of our youth. Exposing them to the excitement and reward of STEM at the right time and encouraging our young people to go after careers in these areas is beneficial to society and to the individual as well.

“Scott AFB has teamed up to promote STEM in many ways, including through SIUE. We will continue to seek opportunities to help our region. Examples of these collaborations are summer camps which teach youth how to build hovercraft and understand the science behind their operation, the science behind games, science in the health fields and robotics.”

For more information and opportunities to work with Scott AFB and SIUE on STEM activities, contact Air Mobility Command Public Affairs at (618) 229-7843.

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