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ITEST project - Boston College and MassBay Community College Enhance STEM Careers for Middle, High School and Community College Students

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WELLESLEY HILLS (March 1, 2016) – Boston College Lynch School of Education and Massachusetts Bay Community College have collaborated on a new and unique career initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) ITEST grant, to prepare low-income students from area high schools for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“This partnership combines the extraordinary faculty talent at both MassBay and Boston College to create pathways for under-represented groups in STEM and increase the talent pool in this area, while engaging with high school teachers,” said MassBay Interim President Yves Salomon-Fernandez. “It’s a winning collaboration.”

The three-year, $1.1 million Integrated Approach to Creating STEM Career Pathways grant will be used to recruit, prepare, and retain low-income and underrepresented youth to enter STEM career pathways. This project is meant to engage middle and high school students to explore hydroponics and robotics in a year round setting.

“This ITEST project will allow MassBay to offer new, engaging and authentic STEM enrichment activities as well as credit-bearing education programs to a diverse student population in the K-12 school districts we serve,” said MassBay Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Chitra Javdekar. “Students will participate in hands-on STEM education activities, mentoring as well as academic and career guidance support so they can make informed decisions about their future careers.”

Throughout the program, students will be introduced to alternative energy to power hydroponic systems. They will build and program robotic arms and Raspberry Pi to automate planting, harvesting, and monitoring of produce that they will grow during their 10th and 12th grade year of high school. High school juniors and senior will participate in summer courses at MassBay in conjunction with its iCREAT project that is also funded by NSF. Summer learning will focus on coding, robotics, electronics, engineering design, and students will also earn college credits.

The overall program combines science with social entrepreneurship. MassBay and Boston College faculty will support participating youth in understanding how to start a business with the STEM skills that they gain, which they will use to sell the produce that they grow. Students will also be involved in a mentoring component aimed at increasing retention of youth in the project and into their college career. In collaboration with the innovative, web-based mentoring company MentorNet, STEM professionals will connect with students through a virtual mentoring space.

“We are excited to collaborate with Massachusetts Bay Community College STEM faculty because of their deep commitment to designing programs that excite and motivate youth to study a STEM field,” said Professor of Science Education and Technology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College Mike Barnett. “This partnership also will allow us at Boston College to provide an avenue for youth in our college bound program to take courses that are representative of what good collaborative and engaging sciences should look like.”

“By combining MassBay’s experience in offering hands-on middle and high school summer programs with Boston College’s college bound program and applying BC’s educational research and MassBay’s innovative and active learning based educational methods, this project is off to a great success,” said ITEST Project Co-PI and MassBay Computer Science Professor Shamsi Moussavi.

The Integrated Approach to Creating STEM Career Pathways project will support students in learning diverse STEM content, developing applicable skills, and provide them with the career counseling and mentoring to enter and succeed on a STEM career pathway.

“We are excited to be a part of this project which will help us make our STEM initiatives come alive,” said Framingham Superintendent Stacy Scott. “We hope that our students will have access to mentors and experiences that open the world of STEM to them. Our students need to learn about the design process, from agriculture to manufacturing. Learning about how to start businesses will prepare them not only to be a part of the economy, but to design the future economy. We seek to introduce each student to career possibilities that set their imaginations on fire with excitement while they are gaining college credits. We have the talented teachers to inspire them and this grant will help us reach them.”

For more information on MassBay Community College STEM;

MassBay Community College was recently ranked by the Brookings Institution as one of the top schools for value added and earned salaries in the workforce. Ranked #1 for 2-year colleges in Massachusetts, #2 in New England and ranked #16 nationally. The College’s facilities in Wellesley Hills, Framingham and Ashland house day, evening and weekend classes that meet the needs of degree-seeking students and career minded life-long learners. Online options provide convenience and allow faculty to facilitate the learning process. Since its founding in 1961, MassBay has been accredited by several governing bodies and strives to meet the needs of the diverse local communities it serves.