Afrin Naz (left) works with students from WVU Tech’s STEM Summer Academy. A new after-school program will extend computer education to middle school students in West Virginia in partnership with the Toyota USA Foundation.
Fast forward a few years: Imagine starting a business based on your unique talents. Perhaps you have developed an innovative product, created beautiful works of art, or cultivated a specialized skill. With the right computer training, you can easily build a website or an app to grow your brand rather than spending hundreds of dollars to hire help.
In an increasingly digital world, computer skills are becoming essential in all trades. That’s the message behind a new after-school program for middle schoolers led by the West Virginia University Institute of Technology.
The Toyota USA Foundation has awarded WVU Tech a grant of $ 189,000 to support the after-school computer program, which will serve 300 middle school students in four West Virginia counties – Fayette, Kanawha, Putnam and Raleigh. The program will also provide valuable experience for WVU Tech undergraduates majoring in computer science, who will mentor participating college students and assist teachers as needed.
The after-school program supports a statewide initiative passed by the West Virginia legislature in 2019 to promote computer education in K-12 schools. The WVU Center of Excellence in STEM Education has obtained two previous grants in support of the initiative; however, these projects involve working with teachers on classroom efforts. Launching an after-school program creates opportunities to involve parents, who play a vital role in emphasizing the importance of computers.
âSTEM education is a dynamic and growing field in Southern West Virginia and across the country,â said Gay Stewart, director of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education. âWith this generous donation from the Toyota USA Foundation, we will open up the dynamic world of STEM learning to our students and their parents. Gifts like this help our university fulfill its most vital mission – to guide our young people in a positive direction and prepare them for the workplace of the future.
Grant funds will cover the associated costs – program development, online infrastructure, IT support, teacher compensation, and stipends for 24 student mentors – to deliver the after-school program to students and their families for free for three years.
âWe hope this new after-school program will help motivate and inspire young people, opening up a world of possibilities for rewarding and in-demand careers,â said Mike Goss, President of the Toyota USA Foundation.
Afrin Naz, Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Information Systems Department at Tech’s Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering & Sciences, worked with schools to pilot the after-school program during the 2020-21 academic year. The students met with a teacher after school a few times a week to learn more about coding and web development. WVU Tech student mentors were available to support participating teachers and work with college students.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been delivered remotely, but students and teachers will typically be on site at schools. Visiting instructors and WVU Tech students can join virtually and / or in person. The ability to participate via video conferencing tools will remove geographic barriers as WVU is working with the West Virginia Department of Education to expand the program.
Kennedy Moore, a Grades 6-8 STEM teacher at Midland Trail High School in Fayette County, participated in the pilot project. She said her students enjoy learning from WVU Tech students who are closer to their age.
âIt really helps them see each other in the future,â Moore said, adding that she was grateful to the Toyota USA Foundation for making the program possible. âI can really see the difference it makes in the performance of the students, not only in the program but also in the classroom. â¦ It opens more doors for them.
The Toyota USA Foundation aims to prepare the leaders of tomorrow by supporting innovative STEM-focused programs – science, technology, engineering and math – for students and teachers, from preschool to post-secondary. Toyota is also a sponsor of WVU Tech’s STEM Summer Academy.
The Toyota USA Foundation grant was awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private support on behalf of the University.
cr / 10/06/21
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