WPI Receives Intel Grant to Promote STEM Careers and Higher Education to Middle School Students

Media Contact
March 08, 2011

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has received a $34,550 grant from the Intel Foundation to support the university's initiatives in promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers to young people. The Middle School Campus Experiences program is aimed specifically at girls and underrepresented minority students from Worcester County and the Worcester Public Schools.

The Intel grant will enable WPI to bring 500 middle school students and 30 of their teachers and guidance counselors to campus to explore STEM careers and learn about college planning. Students who participate in these tours will also be invited to STEM Saturdays with a parent or guardian. Open to 60 middle school students and 60 parents or guardians, STEM Saturdays is a series of three institutes with hands-on workshops in STEM fields for students and workshops for parents on how to continue to motivate their children in STEM disciplines.

"WPI has long been a leader in K-12 STEM education," says WPI Director of K-12 Outreach Martha Cyr. "We are grateful to the Intel Foundation for supporting our efforts to ensure a highly educated, diverse, and skilled workforce in the STEM fields."

According to Cyr, the Middle School Campus Experiences program is designed to address a significant problem in the STEM workforce: the lack of women and underrepresented minority students considering STEM careers. This issue has been identified at the national and state levels, Cyr adds. At the national level, President Barack Obama has launched his Educate to Innovate program to reinforce the need to increase STEM literacy and expand STEM career opportunities for women and underrepresented students. At the state level, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has formed a STEM Advisory Council.

The Intel Foundation also considers these issues to be of critical importance. The foundation focuses its philanthropy on initiatives that fuel innovation in classrooms, empower women and underserved youth, and enables Intel employees to serve the needs of their communities. WPI and the Intel Foundation share the goals of increasing interest in math and science education and helping to develop a future workforce that represents the diversity around the world.

The Middle School Campus Experiences advances this mission, Cyr says, by introducing career options and role models to students, which can help motivate them to stay in school. She cites one study by the Institute for Higher Education that suggests college readiness programs should begin before high school and should include career exploration and information about academic and financial preparation for college for both students and parents. Cyr notes that another study by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Phi Delta Kappa International shows that while a large number of middle school students (92 percent) plans to attend college, only 32 percent know what classes they need to take in high school in order to do so.

"In terms of STEM careers, educating middle school students on career opportunities becomes even more critical," Cyr adds. "By middle school, many students have already self-limited their career aspirations and have unknowingly stereotyped out of certain careers. This is especially true for women and underrepresented minorities."

In addition to Middle School Campus Experiences, WPI offers more than two dozen STEM-focused educational programs for K-12 students and educators. Among the university's most widely known programs are Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and Camp Reach. WPI is the Massachusetts Affiliate University for PLTW, a nationally acclaimed pre-engineering program that promotes math, science and technology skills for middle and high school students using engineering problem-solving as a framework. Camp Reach brings together a group of inquisitive girls the summer before their seventh-grade year, empowering them with two weeks of discovery and hands-on engineering.

About Intel Foundation

Founded in 1989, the Intel Foundation is a philanthropic organization focuses on programs that advance education and improve communities worldwide. By providing funding for national and localized grants, the foundation helps fuel innovation in classrooms, empower women and underserved youth, and enables Intel employees to serve the needs of their communities. The goals of the Intel Foundation are to increase interest in math and science education, and to help develop a workforce that represents the diversity around the world.