FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont State University is set to receive a substantial boost in STEM education thanks to a $2.5 million grant from NASA, ensuring the continued operation of the Education Resource Center (ERC) for the next five years. The grant, a renewal of previous funding, will further empower the ERC to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education across North, Central, and West Virginia.
The announcement was made by Fairmont State Professor Dr. Deb Hemler, who expressed gratitude for the ongoing support from NASA. Dr. Hemler highlighted the growth of the ERC over the past two decades, evolving from a modest beginning with one employee to its current state boasting four full-time staff, a college intern, and four AmeriCorps members.
Education Resource Center Expanded its Scope to Engage Students Directly
Initially focused on teacher education, the ERC has expanded its scope to engage students directly, particularly through initiatives such as the First Lego League and VEX Robotics competitions. Dr. Hemler revealed that the ERC is now venturing into drone competitions, demonstrating a commitment to staying at the forefront of STEM education trends.
“We’re now doing state competitions with drones, which we haven’t done before. It’s a new initiative for us,” stated Dr. Hemler, emphasizing the ERC’s dedication to evolving alongside technological advancements. The programs require students to master coding skills, robot manipulation, and troubleshooting, providing practical experience in STEM fields.
According to Dr. Hemler, these competitions equip students with valuable technical skills and foster teamwork, project management, and problem-solving abilities. The ERC’s focus on hands-on learning helps students apply mathematical concepts in real-world scenarios, preparing them for the demands of modern technology.
“The Education Resource Center runs a program called ‘Loan-and-Learn Kit’.”
Beyond competitions, the Education Resource Center operates a loan-and-learn kit program, allowing regional STEM classrooms access to specialized learning tools. The program provides schools and youth groups with resources such as Star Labs, robotics kits, engineering design challenges, and rocket kits, valued at thousands of dollars each. The ERC also offers training to educators and organizations borrowing the materials, ensuring effective implementation in the classroom.
Fairmont State University President Dr. Mike Davis expressed delight in continuing the partnership with NASA IV&V through the ERC. He emphasized the significance of the initiative in delivering high-quality STEM education to the region, praising the Katherine Johnson NASA IV&V for their support.
“This grant allows Fairmont State to affirm and strengthen our commitment to developing innovative education that transforms individuals and communities,” said Dr. Davis, highlighting the university’s dedication to shaping the future of STEM education in the region. With the grant securing the Education Resource Center’s operations, Fairmont State remains at the forefront of fostering STEM excellence in the community.