STEM mini-grant program applications open for Arizona teachers

A student at Tartesso Elementary School in Buckeye works on constructing an autonomous robot. The school received funding through the APS and Phoenix Suns STEM mini-grant program. (Photo by Joel Wisser, Tartesso Elementary School)

Teachers have a daunting task of continually finding engaging ways to educate their students, and when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math subjects, that task can be even tougher.

For more than a decade, educators from around the state have risen to the challenge to engage their students through highly interactive, hands-on STEM projects through the APS and Phoenix Suns STEM mini-grant program, which began accepting applications Aug. 27 for the 2018-19 school year, according to a release.

APS and the Phoenix Suns have contributed more than $500,000 throughout the program’s existence to amplify STEM education in Arizona schools, by offering grants of up to $2,500 each with a total of up to $50,000 available during the 2018-19 school year.

“During the 2017-18 school year, the program saw one teacher using retinal scanning equipment in his architectural class, which also allowed a student with cerebral palsy to draw architectural designs,” according to the release.

“Another teacher utilized the funding to teach his students how to engineer science lab tables out of standard PVC pipe and another taught students how to program robots and utilize sensors to make them autonomous,” according to the release.

Arizona K-12 teachers in public and charter schools within APS’ service territory are invited to apply for STEM mini-grants. The annual application period closes on Oct. 1 with awardees learning of their grant awards in November.

“The APS/Suns grant allowed us to expand our offerings so we could get materials needed for an introductory and advanced robotics after-school class,” Joel Wisser, who has been teaching computer programming and app design in the Saddle Mountain Unified School District for five years, said in the release.

“We were able to purchase 12 robotic kits plus a gaming field, which is allowing these kids to learn programming, how to incorporate sensors and making the robots autonomous. It’s teaching team building and problem-solving skills that they will use well beyond their school years,” he said.

Teachers are invited to visit for program procedures, criteria and STEM mini-grants applications. There, they will also find a list of project summaries from past school years, according to the release.

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