PAsmart grant awarded to BLaST IU 17

Expanding K-12 computer science and STEM education

BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 secured $277,307 through the Governor’s PAsmart Advancing Grant in partnership with Mansfield University to extend technology education, apprenticeship and job training opportunities to schools in the region.

The funding is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s $30 million state-wide initiative to strategically invest in K-12. The purpose of this grant is to grow partnerships between Local Education Agencies, higher education institutions and businesses while expanding experiences for those historically under served in the areas of STEM and computer science education and the number of educators.

Department of Education special assistant to the secretary Pamela Smith joined regional leaders, faculty and students at Mansfield University recently to announce that the advancing grant has been awarded to the university’s PATHways to College Program.

“The PAsmart grant will enable Mansfield and its partners to provide STEM/CS (computer science) toolkits to school districts, to expand a STEM/CS lending library and to increase student opportunities with private-sector enterprises,” said Smith, who was visiting the university as part of the Wolf Administration’s Schools That Teach Tour. “The initiatives are designed to prepare students with the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st Century workforce.”

“Over 700,000 STEM related jobs will be emerging across PA over the next several years. The specific emphasis on Computer Science is timely given that there are already over 1,900 open coding jobs in PA,” said Christina Steinbacher-Reed, executive director of BLaST.

Jennifer Demchak, of the Mansfield University geosciences department, provided creativity and leadership in the strategic and collaborative approach to promoting STEM and computer science disciplines for students in the Northern Tier.

To maximize the impact in the region, BLaST worked with Mansfield University to secure the grant and will serve as the fiscal agent.

Together they submitted their program summaries for the competitive grant which included a proposal to use this grant to add an additional layer of STEM and computer science programming that brings professionals into the classroom with supplementary hands-on activities that the students would not normally be exposed to.

The programming will be in the form of 30-, 60- and 90-minute programs which will include course lectures, labs, field experiences, professional speakers, career explorations, virtual and augmented reality exploration and college preparation.

Other projects will include the Pathway to College program for high school students in the state’s rural northern tier region.

This grant also will allow for another phase of needs to be addressed in an existing resource, the Innovation Lending Library.

As part of the grant, BLaST will replicate their current Innovation Lending Library to their Canton office, making these STEM instructional materials more accessible to school districts across Tioga and Bradford counties.

The Lending Library consists of tools and kits of STEM and computer science resources that can be borrowed by K-12 educators at no cost to use in their classrooms.

This provides teachers with the opportunity to incorporate new technologies without the cost of purchasing their own equipment.

These hands-on activities are an innovative way in which the Intermediate Unit has made STEM/CS equipment accessible to all teachers within BLaST IU 17 school districts.