Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) has been awarded the largest university grant in the National Defense Education Program from the U.S. Department of Defense.
The $6 million grant, which will be administered over the next four years by the United States Department of Defense (DoD), is for the development and implementation of additional STEM education programs for schools with economically disadvantaged or underrepresented students
The goal is to create a pathway for successful careers in engineering and innovation.
At a special announcement ceremony Monday morning at OSU DISCOVERY in Oklahoma City, OSU President Kayse Shrum welcomed Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3), Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Director Wade Wolfe, as well as representatives for Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford and Rep. Stephanie Bice.
Dr. Shrum said it was fitting to make the announcement on National STEM Day.
“As the former Secretary of Science and Innovation, I know the value of a strong STEM workforce to the state of Oklahoma,” she said. “As I served, I had the opportunity to go around and visit with many CEOs and I heard repeatedly that the most important thing they are looking for when expanding their businesses or relocating is a qualified workforce. … Having a qualified STEM workforce means early engagement with our young students.
“Today’s announcement is an example of the commitment Oklahoma State University has to STEM education. As we move forward, we are committed to developing a multidisciplinary, collaborative center that can serve the needs of the state, developing a robust pipeline for students entering STEM careers. I am very excited about [this grant], because it provides an opportunity for early engagement and introduces engineering and other STEM fields to students in middle school as well as high school. Students at Millwood, Mid-Del and Oklahoma City Public Schools, and students across the state in other school districts will have the opportunity to experience this grant and the opportunity to have mentorship. I personally, as a first-generation college student who also entered into a STEM career, appreciate the value of teaching young students the joy of discovery through science, technology, engineering and math.”
Lucas echoed Dr. Shrum’s excitement.
“If you look at the near future and long future, whoever leads in science and technology sets the rules of the road for decades to come in this world. We want that road to begin in Oklahoma. We want it to begin with these wonderfully bright young men and women,” Lucas said, gesturing toward a group of students from ASTEC Charter Schools who attended Monday’s event and did some hands-on STEM learning.
Inhofe could not attend, but celebrated the grant announcement via video.
“I was glad, but not surprised, to hear that the DoD officially announced Oklahoma State University is a recipient of the National Defense Education Programs grant,” Inhofe said. “This $6 million will go a long way to prepare Oklahoma students to serve in the thousands of engineer and STEM-trained technician roles that maintain military readiness and innovate solutions against future threats.
“If you know me, you know how important Oklahoma’s military is to our country and I am proud to see Oklahoma State prioritizing the future generation of our nation’s force.”
Dr. McDaniel also expressed excitement about the grant and what it will mean for advancing STEM education in Oklahoma.
“On behalf of my two colleagues — Dr. Rick Cobb from Mid-Del and Dr. Cecilia Robinson-Woods from Millwood — I just can’t tell you how excited we are about the opportunity to be at this event,” McDaniel said. “We work most of our adult lives trying to figure out how we can develop kids who are STEM ready when they leave us. So we are looking for partners all of the time.
“… We can’t do anything by ourselves. It takes linking arms, not just in something like STEM, but interest in our kids and this is that messaging that we want your kids to be successful. We appreciate this opportunity more than I can say. It will allow our kids to do some things that they otherwise probably could not do.”
OSU is one of only seven universities across the nation to receive funding from the DoD for the purpose of educating the next generation of STEM workforce employees and creating a relationship with defense industry partners who can leverage the knowledge gained by those students as a means to support their national initiatives.
Together these universities and nonprofit organizations will receive a total of $43 million over three- or four-year periods, depending on the award. OSU and Harvard University each received the largest university grants in the program at $6 million each.
Awardees, consisting of a local education agency, institutions of higher education, and nonprofits, are focused on activities related to STEM. The award aims to engage students and educators through STEM education, outreach and workforce initiatives from early childhood through postsecondary education.
Dr. Paul Tikalsky, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, said OSU DISCOVERY, located in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Innovation District, will be the hub of activity for CEAT, OSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences, and its partners. DISCOVERY will scale up its K-8 grade STEM summer and transdisciplinary teacher training at three school districts adjacent to Tinker Air Force Base, the state’s largest military base. The student programs will prepare thousands of students for engineering career pathways and opportunities to earn scholarships to pursue engineering careers at OSU.
The funding will serve as a hub for CEAT’s STEM education initiatives within the greater Oklahoma City area, as well as across the state to provide an environment for students and educators to meet the rising demand for future engineering graduates.
“I am very excited to propel our STEM initiatives and as an end result, produce more engineers for the state of Oklahoma and our nation,” Tikalsky said.
Dr. Jovette Dew, director of the K-12 STEM program at OSU, said this grant will allow the university to elevate its STEM initiatives and inspire more young people to pursue STEM careers.
“Some of these initiatives include increasing our summer camps, partnering with community leaders for after-school programs, increasing our teacher training programs, partnering with our industry leaders and mentoring with engineering professionals and teachers,” Dew said. “We want to make sure that students can see themselves in STEM careers when they grow up. We want them to know that good jobs are right here in Oklahoma and in our own backyard.”
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Director Wade Wolfe said that’s good news for Oklahoma’s STEM industries.
“So at Tinker Air Force Base, we have 10,500 employees that work at the installation,” Wolfe said. “Many of them are civilians and we repair airplanes that are 50- and 60-years-old. We need a healthy balance of career tech employees, as well as STEM employees. We need aircraft mechanics, jet engine mechanics, NDI mechanics, welders, pipe fitters, but we also need chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, chemists to keep our machine running. …
“This is a monumental and tremendous occasion that we get to promote STEM education in the state of Oklahoma.”
Photo provided by Oklahoma State University: Students from ASTEC Charter School do hands-on STEM learning at OSU DISCOVERY in Oklahoma City.