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College awarded nearly $1M federal grant for STEM education

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Aug 29, 2019

For the third time in 13 years, the College of Lake County has been awarded a highly sought-after federal grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a program encouraging the enrollment, retention and transfer of students majoring in engineering and computer science.

The $996,848 grant—the largest of the three that the college has received—will be awarded over five years, said Jan Edwards, a materials science engineer and CLC engineering professor who led a group of six faculty and staff that worked several months on a grant proposal. The grant, titled Building an Academic Community of Engineering Scholars, will provide scholarships and education support services for academically talented students, with special emphasis given to students from under-represented and economically disadvantaged groups including women, minorities and the disabled.

The grant finances 25 scholarships per semester at CLC, each averaging $2,000 after financial aid. Based on their level of financial need, some students will have their entire costs covered for their time at CLC. The Baxter Innovation Photo of 3D printer in Baxter Innovation LabLab (Makerspace/Fab Lab) will serve as the central hub for community building activities including tutoring, advising, transfer assistance and hands-on team projects. The program also emphasizes cohorts, or groups of students who take multiple courses together in order to build peer support and camaraderie. At least 90 students will receive scholarships over the five-year period for a maximum award of $8,000 annually.



Photo: A student examines a prosthetic hand created by a 3D printer in the college's Baxter Innovation Lab on the Grayslake Campus.

The tutoring and other support services provided for students reflect the program’s major focus: removing barriers to students’ success in CLC’s engineering and computer science programs while ensuring academic rigor, Edwards explained.

Other plans include increasing the number of internships available to engineering students. The Baxter Innovation Lab is in the unique position to offer internships to students during their freshman and sophomore years, Edwards said.

“Coming from the National Science Foundation, this new grant is once again an affirmation of the quality of academic programs at CLC and also the need for engineering and computer science graduates,” Edwards said. In addition to preparing the students well academically, this program also includes $5,000 annually in transfer scholarships, to support selected students in their junior year at a transfer university.

In the current grant program, students will be recruited from local high schools as well as from existing CLC students. “Schools with a significant minority and low-income

population will be targeted,” Edwards said. “The monies will be given for up to three years and must be applied to coursework contributing to an engineering or computer science degree.

 “Many students face problems entering programs of study in engineering or computer science. Money can be a major roadblock, as can inadequate high school preparation in math and science. Traditional gender roles can create another barrier.” There is also an opportunity for middle- and high-school students to explore their interest in engineering prior to starting their college career and break down some of these barriers.  The grant will provide summer camp scholarships for 20 students annually to promote awareness of engineering activities at CLC.

Persisting in engineering and computer science studies also has been a challenge. “Across the nation, whether at a college or university, attrition is very high because of the difficulty of these disciplines,” Edwards said.

One student who benefited from an NSF scholarship is Nick Chiodo, who graduated from CLC in 2015 and earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Northern Illinois University in 2017.

“The scholarship helped reduce financial stress, and through the NSF program, I joined a study group at CLC with other dedicated engineering students,” said Chiodo, now employed at a nuclear power plant in Byron, Ill. “Working with peers makes a profound difference toward becoming successful in college. I’m also grateful to the CLC instructors who helped me.”

Employment of engineers is projected to grow 4 percent through 2024, adding about 65,000 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fall classes began Aug. 19, but many flexible-starting options are available. For information about courses and how to apply and enroll, visit www.clcillinois.edu/fall.

For more information about the NSF program, contact Edwards at (847) 543-2918 or at jedwards1@clcillinois.edu.

 

About College of Lake County:

College of Lake County is an innovative community college in Lake County, Ill. that transforms lives with its variety of accessible, quality education options. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, College of Lake County provides affordable options in a state-of-the-art setting close to home. A large student network, with small class sizes,provides advantages to our students on a career-related program or a path toward a transfer degree. We’re proud to serve the diverse needs of our community and student body. Connect to your future today at College of Lake County.