HUNTINGTON — The Marshall University Foundation Inc. has been awarded a $50,000 Phase One planning grant to expand science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) educational opportunities in Huntington and to update a statewide high school STEM program by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The Benedum grant application was developed by faculty and staff in the Marshall engineering and art programs, in consultation with the Advanced Career program of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and the Office of Career and Technical Education at the West Virginia Department of Education.

Stephen Pruitt, president of the Southern Regional Education Board, is supportive of the work.

"High schools and technology centers are being challenged like never before to prepare youth for their next steps after graduation, whether those steps include earning a credential or degree or securing a good job right away." Pruitt said. "The SREB Advanced Career (AC) courses are helping schools in West Virginia meet the challenge by introducing students to exciting careers in varied STEM fields. SREB is pleased to collaborate with Marshall University in creating learning experiences that will expand postsecondary and workforce opportunities for West Virginia's students."

The Benedum grant will support the piloting of new, integrated, hands-on art and engineering courses at Marshall University and update a sequence of four high school STEM courses originally designed to support the energy and power industry in West Virginia. These courses were developed for West Virginia by the SREB nearly 10 years ago, in cooperation with local industry and education personnel.

The SREB has also developed several different high school STEM programs in most of the 16 states that they support, all of which are developed in cooperation with the emerging industries in each state. Programs are then marketed to high schools in each state and each school selects the STEM topic to teach and the educators to oversee the courses. Once these selections are made, the educators participate in intensive two week workshops in the summer to prepare for the next academic year.

"In addition to the vertical secondary/postsecondary integration of this project, Marshall University's horizontal integration of art and engineering reflects the cross-disciplinary collaboration that is in such demand by industry," said Jim Denova, vice president of the foundation, in a release."This collaboration recognizes that innovation and creativity come from the cross-pollination of different sectors. With this in mind, the Benedum Foundation launched a Creative Industries Initiative that centers on artists and designers as the catalysts of invention and economic growth."

Marshall engineering professor Richard Begley assisted with the grant application and said he believes its impact will be felt at Marshall.

"The Benedum grant will be a very significant and timely contribution to the investments made in both the engineering and art programs by Marshall University over the last few years," Begley said. "The state-of-the-art facilities at the Weisberg Applied Engineering Complex have already been used to deliver the energy and power workshops, as well as workshops in advanced manufacturing and innovations in science and technology, to high school teachers from 12 different counties in West Virginia and almost all of the 16 states that SREB supports."

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