Middle schools win $100,000 each for new STEM labs

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When Jonathan Morris, the principal of Lucille M. Brown Middle School in Richmond, Va., hired a new technology teacher this year, he didn’t know that he would also get a $100,000 prize.

Morris’ school, which serves about 700 students, was one of five to receive grants of up to $100,000 to turn their classrooms into state-of-the-art STEM labs. Nearly 200 public middle schools across the nation competed for a shot at the STEM money.

The teacher, Dana Newcomer, “saw the condition of the lab, so she applied for the grant,” Morris said in an interview with EdScoop. They are going to start designing the lab in the next few months, and purchase 3D printers, robotics equipment and computers, Morris said. It should be installed in the spring.

“All of our students are excited,” he said.

The grants were awarded by the Northrup Grumman Foundation, which announced this month the winners in its Fab School Labs classroom makeover competition. There were also 15 semi-finalists whose schools received $2,000 for lab supplies and equipment.

The champions will start working with Flinn Scientific, a contractor and science resource for teachers and students, to design and build the cutting-edge labs and fill them with all the tools needed for kids to compete in the 21st century.

Along with Lucille M. Brown Middle School, the other winning schools are:

  • Benjamin Syms Middle School, Hampton City Schools, Hampton, Virginia
  • Clifton Middle School, Monrovia Unified School District, Monrovia, California
  • Aurora Frontier P-8, Adams-Arapahoe 28J: Aurora Public Schools, Aurora, Colorado
  • Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Austin Independent School District, Austin, Texas

Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the foundation and vice president of Global Corporate Responsibility for the defense contractor, said the schools were in dire need of a science, technology, engineering and math facelift.

“After hearing from the nearly 200 schools that entered our contest, it is clear that the need for better teaching tools, modern equipment and up to date facilities at the middle school level is great, as these are vital to any classroom activity and to a teacher’s ability to keep students engaged and inspired,” she said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with our five winning schools to turn their existing facilities into a true fab school lab.”

Teachers, principals and faculty submitted proposals of what their dream STEM labs would look like through videos, essays and photos. Candidates were reviewed by a team that included members of a national science organization, and there was also a five-day online voting campaign that garnered more than 450,000 votes on Facebook.

The winners were selected from a pool of top 20 schools, based on existing classroom and lab resources, level of need, student impact, practicality of upgrades and other contest eligibility markers and requirements, according to Northrop Grumman officials.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com or follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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