Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant awarded to the University of Maine, Bangor High School students will have a unique opportunity to apply what they learn in science and math classes to a real-life, local environmental issue. They will join students and teachers from Auburn and Portland to study the effect of storm water pollution on local streams.
The project is part of a $735,000 NSF award to the University of Maine to help educators incorporate engineering into K-12 education. Faculty from the University of Maine teamed up with Bangor High School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Academy Director Cary James to write the grant, which was one of only five projects chosen nationwide to broaden regional STEM education.
“We designed the concept so that any school seeking to engage students in STEM education could replicate our project,” explains James.
The project will help improve water quality by producing new watershed maps and management plans for streams in Bangor and in the Auburn and Portland areas. “We chose water as the theme not only because of its importance to life on planet Earth but also because it’s a pervasive environmental issue that we know will get students excited about STEM education,” says James. Encouraging more students, especially underrepresented populations, to consider STEM education and engineering careers is one of the goals of the project.
Bangor High School students will participate in every stage of the study. They will design water quality sensing equipment, gather and analyze data, create watershed maps, and work with engineering professionals from the university, private industry, public water districts, and environmental groups. They will also develop a community outreach campaign about stormwater pollution to present to elementary school students.
The three-year project will kick off in summer 2014 with a five-day training institute at the University of Maine for 45 teachers and 180 students from Bangor, Auburn, and Portland. The award will also be used to purchase necessary equipment for the study, and as a result Bangor’s STEM Academy will receive state-of-the-art water quality sensing technology, including a spectrophotometer.
“Our challenge as a school department,” says Dr. Betsy Webb, Superintendent, “was to answer the nation’s call to action for school systems to better prepare students for post secondary STEM learning and for STEM careers. We are pleased to see that the Bangor High School STEM Academy, in which we partner with the University of Maine, is gaining state and national approval. Bangor students are justifiably working alongside scientists and college students on real world problems. This type of public school education compares to the best of the best and if the students choose, ensures a future in a STEM related field.”