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Educators win cash awards for STEM ideas at CEI conference

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Image for Colorado Education Highlight story about 2016 CEI showcase.

Colorado STEM professionals are helping educators and students bring STEm projects and classroom ideas to life.

It started with a three-day challenge for Colorado educators to show off their most creative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects to colleagues and industry professionals — and ended with three talented educators’ projects each receiving more than $2,000 in funding.

The Colorado Education Initiative’s (CEI) STEM Design Challenge was a highlight at the recent sold-out 2016 CEI Showcase, a professional learning conference, that invited educators to bring a school project or classroom idea to life.

The challenge first introduced educators to to learn how to create projects on the crowdfunding site. Industry professionals from information technology and aerospace collaborated with educators to answer this challenge: “How can educators use STEM to bridge the divide between coursework and the real world?”

Twelve finalists pitched project ideas to a panel of judges that included CEI board members Leroy Williams and Graham Forman, founder and managing director of Edovate Capital. “It’s important that our educators know there is support for their STEM ideas from Colorado companies and business leaders,” he said.

Innovative project ideas ranged from a special education teacher whose concept was using 3-D printers to increase her students’ engagement in hands-on design to projects about designing greenhouses and reclaiming creeks.

“CEI is dedicated to supporting innovative educators who design student experiences that are relevant and engaging, while developing partnerships with Colorado companies that result in positive outcomes for kids,” Williams said. “I was inspired by the passion of these educators to take a risk and develop projects in a short amount of time, but in a compelling and persuasive way.”

Palmer High School teacher Sean Wybrant from Colorado Springs School District 11 took first place for his idea to engage female students, who are underrepresented in Colorado’s tech workforce, in technology and computer science projects. “My students are the heroes who will conceive of, design, and implement solutions to our world’s most complex problems,” he said.

“We will take risks, we will face failure, and together we will persevere and mitigate those risks to ultimately achieve success.”

Teachers from the Greeley-Evans School District’s Heights Middle School and Martinez Elementary took second and third place in the challenge.

The top three winners received mini-grants from CEI’s Colorado STEM Champions Boeing and Oracle Academy. Ball Corporation., ISSAC Corp., Lockheed Martin, the Colorado Technology Association, and Edovate Capital also worked in partnership with educators on project design. (Colorado STEM Champions are companies, foundations, and individual donors contributing time, talent, and financial resources to implement the Colorado STEM Education Roadmap.)

“To make STEM and computer science engaging, students must have classroom opportunities to work on real-world projects that reflect challenges faced by scientists, software developers, data analysts, and other STEM professionals every day,” said Oracle Academy vice president Alison Derbenwick Miller.

“We were delighted to support the CEI STEM Design Challenge, which was a terrific opportunity for industry experts to partner with innovative educators to develop and implement creative and relevant projects for Colorado students.”

In addition to the top three winners, other STEM Design Challenge participants included:

Dream Makers, Colorado Springs D11, Kimberly Hill Eighth-grade career exploration, Colorado Springs D11, Lori Waddle Gypsum Creek Middle, Eagle County Schools, Katie Lunde Holmes Middle School, Colorado Springs D11, Christina Rochelle McAuliffe Elementary Robotics Club, Colorado Springs D11, Jay Stutz Normandy stream reclamation project, Jeffco Public Schools, Andrea Mesac Rocky Mountain Science Center, Eagle County Schools, Amanda Hewitt Scott Elementary, Colorado Springs D11, Scott Detloff Stratton Elementary, Colorado Springs D11, Julie Edner

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