ROCKLAND — The Island Institute, a membership-based nonprofit, has received a competitive $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the development, implementation and evaluation of an educational model designed to increase the science, technology, engineering and math competencies and career aspirations of students in rural communities. Energy for ME, which first received $50,000 last summer from Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” national STEM initiative for a pilot project on North Haven and Vinalhaven islands, also received $124,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency last fall.
The overall goal of Energy for ME is to provide students with tools to help them decide their communities’ energy futures. Working with 13 of Maine’s year-round island and coastal communities, Energy for ME will directly engage at least 50 teachers, 100 students and their families to increase STEM energy content knowledge and technology proficiencies by analyzing, discussing and responding to locally relevant energy issues. Students and their families will learn to measure energy usage and explore renewable energy sources with the goal of increasing home and school energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption. Participants at each project site will measure energy usage at their school, a community building and two residences, competing with the other community sites to see who can save the most energy.
In partnership with PowerWise, a Blue Hill-based company providing circuit-by-circuit energy monitoring equipment, Energy for ME will provide participants with some of the most cutting-edge energy monitoring equipment available and a custom online dashboard that will give a snapshot of the entire project in real time as electricity is flowing.
Ruth Kermish-Allen, the institute’s education director and co-principal investigator of the project with Suzanne Pude, the organization’s community energy director, expressed appreciation for this latest and largest award as well as for the grants that made the pilot project possible. “Our Energy for ME pilot project proved that our core project components could really excite students about STEM learning in a whole new way — measuring real-time energy usage and developing energy-efficiency solutions. With NSF funding, we can expand this model to communities all along the Maine coast, and we’re deeply grateful for this opportunity.”