The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of about $1 million to Mobile County Public Schools to fund the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy and study how it helps develop a regional workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
The grant, which will be administered over a three-year period, is one of only two in the nation given to K-12 systems this year by the NSF, which typically awards them to programs on the postsecondary level.
“How wonderful that the National Science Foundation is investing in the youth of today and this leadership program through JROTC,” MCPSS Superintendent Martha Peek said. “I could not be prouder of everyone who has been involved in this.”
MCPSS partnered with STEMWorks, LLC, and the University of Southern Mississippi in proposing the ITEST Strategies research project to study camp participants’ motivation and preparedness to pursue STEM careers, to gauge its effectiveness as a regional STEM workforce development strategy, and to formulate a model that can be replicated regionally and nationally.
The week-long residential camp, which is in its fourth year, is designed to increase awareness of STEM career opportunities in the Mobile area and the skills needed to secure these jobs. Cadets participate in area industry and university field trips; leadership exercises such as rappelling and drown-proofing; and STEM instruction that is reinforced through hands-on, engineering-focused design challenges.
“Over the course of these years, we’ve developed programs that allow our students to explore their potential in terms of science and technology, engineering and mathematics,” said MCPSS Director of Army Instruction Lt. Col. Robert F. Barrow. “This year, it’s a maritime theme. We are a shipbuilding and oil-producing city. There are careers right here in Mobile that can lead to a great life if they apply themselves and develop and grow that potential inside each of them.”
State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, state Rep. Margie Wilcox, Mobile City Councilman John Williams and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne were on hand for the announcement of the grant on Friday at Spring Hill College, where the camp is based.