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Corporate Foundations Announce Partnerships to Support Active, Hands-on STEM Education

September 15, 2016

As the school year kicks off, several corporate foundations have announced new commitments to support hands-on K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences for children across the country. These new partnerships continue a trend of corporate funders bypassing funding for STEM curriculum development to focus on active learning experiences that are shown to have positive impact on STEM retention. Among the corporate foundations making announcements include Microsoft Philanthropies, Motorola Solutions Foundation, and Qualcomm.

On September 5, Virginia Tech University (Virginia Tech) and Qualcomm Inc. announced the launch of the  Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, VA. Through a multi-year partnership, the Thinkabit Lab experience offers both teachers and students an engaging learning environment including access to laboratory space, a makerspace, and classroom sessions. The intent of the Thinkabit Lab is to offer K-12 students “first introduction to hands-on STEM learning and real-world careers.”  Additionally, Virginia Tech faculty research will assess how the program impacts students’ access to STEM teaching and learning activities as well as their awareness of STEM education and career options.

In partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Microsoft Philanthropies will attempt to “expose a broader range of kids to computer science careers,” according to an August 24 article from Forbes. The program – YouthSpark – includes four modules for students to complete. Each module will build upon the last providing students with real-life computer science experiences and exposure to different career pathways in computer science.

In July, Inside Philanthropy highlighted several announcements including Motorola Solutions Foundation awarding $2.81 million in grants for organizations that give kids practical experience in STEM by learning coding, working with 3-D printing, and more. Officially called the Generation grant program, Motorola Solutions Foundation will make 83 funding awards as well as offer those organization access to Motorola employees as volunteers or offer opportunities for future involvement.

Earlier this year, a group of tech industry executives in Utah announced a new initiative to help “educate Utah students and expand access to computer science learning,” according to Utahbusiness.com. Through a partnership with local school districts and the InsideSales foundation, volunteers from InsideSales donated more than 500 hours in the spring 2016 semester to teach students how to code. The intent of the program is to address the state’s growing need for professionals with computer programming and other computing skills.

The Utah tech leaders highlighted the connection between hands-on experience and students’ continued interest in STEM through high school and into college as well as the lack of computer education offered in schools across the state (only one  in five Utah K-12 schools offer computer science classes).

Through a new Call to Action, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) invites communities/organizations from across the country to make commitments to implement active learning strategies in STEM fields as well as efforts that will encourage othersto take action, such as:

  • Incentives for PK-12 educators and higher education faculty to implement active learning strategies;
  • Investment in professional-development opportunities for instructors at every level of education; and,
  • Training materials and resources for educators to promote the help them use active learning.

The Call to Action is open to educators in K-12 and higher education, professional-development providers, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, private industry, and members of the public. Commitments may address efforts at all grade levels and in higher education. Submissions are due Sep 23. 

Utah, Virginiafoundations, stem