IVCC receives $520,000 NSF grant to recruit into engineering careers

 Illinois Valley Community College has received a grant of $520,000 to recruit students into engineering-related careers.

The three-year Advanced Technological Education grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) focuses on increasing awareness of and interest in engineering careers among middle school and high school students, adults and women in the IVCC district.

Dorene Perez, program director of computer aided design and computer aided engineering, heads the grant program as principal investigator. Co-directors are Jim Gibson, program director of electronics; Sue Caley Opsal, anatomy and physiology professor; and Rose Marie Lynch, communications professor.

"We’re very excited about the opportunities we now have to work with junior highs and high schools in our area," Perez said. "We’ll be able to offer special activities and camps to let young people experience how much fun science, math and engineering can be."

Other senior personnel on the grant team are Jeanette Maurice, grant coordinator for Starved Rock Associates for Vocational and Technical Education (SRAVTE) and adjunct IVCC professor; Tracy Morris, director of admissions and records; and Francie Skoflanc, program director of graphic design technology.

In addition to offering project-based activities and camps for young people, some grant activities will specifically target young women and also adults considering a career change.

The grant team will work with area schools to organize engineering technology clubs, to create leadership teams of high school students interested in technical careers, and to offer a Taste of Engineering Careers course to high schools students with college credit. The grant team will also work with SRAVTE in developing activities.

IVCC is also partnering with Purdue University and the e-CREATE program, which will allow high school students to participate in building a guitar.

In awarding the grant, the NSF panel of reviewers cited the strengths of the IVCC proposal as "passionate and competent people in charge of this project" and "activities [that] build on prior work from prior NSF funding."

IVCCs previous NSF grant, which focused on building technical programs around the Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project, was for $230,000. For that grant, which ended in July 2008, Perez also served as principal investigator; Gibson and Lynch were co-principal investigators.

In the new grant, high school students will continue to be involved in MIMIC, designing and reengineering products for the IVCC MIMIC teams to refine, prototype, market and sell.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports research and education across all the fields of science and engineering. The NSF funded ATE program is dedicated to improving the skills of technicians by supporting two-year colleges in developing model workforce development initiatives.

Resource materials for teachers which were developed through the previous grant are being made available through the NSF supported Manufacturing Education Resource Center (MERC) Online website as well as on IVCC’s website.

In the new grant, IVCC will collaborate with two NSF Centers, the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education in Washington and the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing in Connecticut in developing activities and sharing results.