News & Updates

Ignite the Power of STEM Grant Program 2014 Winners

Mar 09, 2015

The Biogen Idec Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Ignite the Power of STEM Grant Program, supporting districts, schools and teachers who participate in the MA STEM Summit. 

A total of $84,520 was granted to 18 schools across the state funding innovative programs spanning K-12 in both urban and suburban districts. 

The program was very competitive, with creative and inventive proposals requesting more than $280,000 submitted for consideration.

For more information on the program visit

Congratulations to the winners!  

Assabet Valley Collaborative Alternative School
Robotics and Practical Application in the Classroom

Assabet Valley Collaborative Alternative School (AVCAS), is a public therapeutic program of Assabet Valley Collaborative, and serves 6th-12th grade students with disabilities who have historically struggled to achieve success in school for a variety of reasons.  AVCAS students are socially/emotionally and behaviorally struggling students who have a history of academic failure and social/emotional fragility. Through the Ignite the Power of STEM grant, AVCAS will launch robotics programming for its students.  The funding will allow AVCAS to purchase start-up curricular project and enrichment materials that will increase engagement and practical understanding of math and science for a population of at risk youth.

Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School
Space Station and Russian Integration Projects

Tenth grade students will use SKYPE to collaborate with 10th grade students in Arkhangelsk, Russia. The career technical programs involved in this project are Culinary Arts, Plumbing, and Electrical. Students will be talking with NASA engineers to look at how these disciplines are developed in the space program and speaking directly with the astronauts and cosmonauts in the International Space Station. Students will be researching the different cuisines and the cultural aspects of food in the US and Russia.  Culinary Arts will also be researching how food science is developing, its role in the NASA program and learn how it is prepared once it is on the International Space Station.  Plumbing students, along with their partners in Arkhangelsk, will be investigating the differences in coding and materials for both the US and Russia, and the planning and maintenance of plumbing/hydraulics of the International Space Station.  The electrical students will be studying the physics relating to electricity, researching the history of electrical safety in both countries, and conducting research on the engineering of the wiring systems of the International Space Station and how they are maintained.  The Ignite the Power of STEM grant will fund a projector for the main gathering space for students, so all may join in the uplink to the International Space Station.

Billerica - Locke Middle School
The Math and Science of Robotic Drones

The Ignite the Power of STEM grant will be used for a curricular math and science project for eighth grade students using robotic drones.  Students need to be aware of what is happening in the world around them and using drones in the classroom would spark their interest in current innovations in technology and teach them about STEM subjects in an engaging way.  Drones are small, affordable, and all students can be involved. The science of flight related to drones will be introduced and math teachers will do several lessons on calculations related to flight.  Students will look at the current and potential uses for robotic drones, and we will fly the drones and collect data to analyze.

Bourne High School
Aquaponics Lab

Ignite the Power of STEM funds will be used to convert an unused science classroom at Bourne High School into an aquaponics lab where students will be able to engage in ongoing, integrated, hands-on scientific inquiry.  With the construction of this lab space, students in all high school science courses will be able to participate in long-term study focused around aquaculture, ecology, advanced plant science, hydroponics, and bio-technology while cultivating fish and plants.  Additionally, students will have opportunities to complete lab work related to photosynthesis, genetics, plant anatomy, reproduction, the environment, the nitrogen cycle, and water quality. Once the lab is established, it will serve as a continuous resource for all Science courses at Bourne High School.  In addition, students from middle and elementary schools would have opportunities to utilize the lab when appropriate.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Mapping Genetic Pathways in Yeast

The Biotechnology Program is part of the Rindge School of Technical Arts (RSTA), the technical arm of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), a large and diverse comprehensive high school located in Cambridge, MA. CRLS has embarked on a three-way collaboration with the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science (MAMS) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and IOMICS Pathways Initiative. The proposed project, Mapping Genetic Pathways in Yeast, is centered on implementing a Global Outreach for Orphan Diseases (GOOD) program for high school STEM education. The purpose of the collaboration is (1) to ignite passion for STEM by engaging high school students in authentic and relevant research and, (2) to participate in a large-scale research project designed to generate important information that could lead to potential therapies for a wide range of genetic diseases. The research program is designed to engage students in original research with the hope of inspiring lasting interest in STEM careers and to provide a strong foundation for future study in medicine, biological sciences, bioengineering, and computational science.  Funds will be used for professional and curriculum development for four teachers from RSTA to take place during summer 2015.

Danvers High School
Digital Fabrication Lab

The newly renovated Danvers High School has a space intended for innovative STEM education, with a particular focus on engineering and design. Support through the Ignite the Power of STEM program will help create a digital fabrication lab, also known as a “Fab Lab,” to support STEM learning.  A Fab Lab includes specific equipment that can be used to create 3D prototypes and models from computer-developed designs, such as a 3D printer, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, high-resolution milling machine that makes circuit boards and precision parts, large wood router for building furniture and housing, and a suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed microcontrollers for on-site rapid circuit prototyping.   The equipment can be used independently or in combination to support virtually limitless fabrication capability. Through hands-on projects, students would actively participate in the engineering design process, engage in the science practices defined by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and develop collaboration and communication skills.  These experiences would provide students with a deeper understanding of STEM concepts and generate excitement about the possibilities within STEM fields.

Everett High School
EHS Robotics

The EHS Robotics initiative is an inquiry-based science laboratory course that builds upon the scientific and engineering backgrounds of the students applying the tools of mathematics, scientific investigations, computer technology, and machine technology to actual situations in the real world of robotics.  The goal of the EHS Robotics initiative is to have students utilize and apply their skills and knowledge of STEM to optimize the performance and efficiency of their newly created robot to successfully compete in various robotic competitions.  The funds received through the Ignite the Power of STEM program will be used for materials to create and build the robots and competition entry fees.

Fitchburg - South Street Elementary School
WeDo Simple Machines

South Street Elementary School will use Ignite the Power of STEM funding to purchase LEGO WeDo construction kits to introduce engineering and beginning robotics programming to students in grades 2-4. LEGO Mindstorm has been introduced in district middle schools. The school believes if elementary students could begin using WeDo, they can go further with their programming in middle school. Scratch programming is currently taught, and the school participates in the Hour of Code program each year.  However, programming for the physical environment is a different experience than programming for screen.  The ultimate goal is to have an intra-district robotics competition with our several elementary and middle schools.  

Framingham - Fuller Middle School
Supporting STEAM @ Fuller

Fuller Middle School will use the Ignite the Power of STEM grant for equipment to enhance its STEAM initiative.  The initiative aims to infuse project-based learning across the curriculum in all content areas, increasing 21st century skills while preparing students for college and career readiness in STEAM fields. Students will complete background research on topics via internet searches, use Google Drive to document work and collaborate with peers, practice basic coding and programming skills using web-based platforms like Scratch and Twine, and practice documenting and design skills including photography, videography, graphic design, and photo/video editing. Exposing students to a variety of technological tools at a young age facilitates early skill development that will allow students to be better equipped to effectively use the technology that is certain to be an integral part of their future educational and career goals.

Medford Vocational Technical High School (MVTHS)
Aqua Culture Facility

The purpose of this project is to cultivate freshwater and marine organisms for interdisciplinary use including Biotechnology, Environmental Science, Culinary Arts, and Engineering & Robotics.
The school will work collaboratively with the City of Medford and the DCR to seek guidance and recommendations throughout all phases of this long-term project.  Funds will be used to purchase the equipment and materials needed for the project. The goals of the program are to work with a variety of career and technical areas that can integrate this project into their curriculum:  Biotechnology & Environmental Science: Students in these programs would raise and analyze both native and genetically modified aquatic organisms. The Fish Farm device would also be used to cultivate and raise endangered aquatic species with the intent to potentially release them back into the wild.  Culinary Arts: The goal for this program would be to work with the Biotechnology and Environmental Science programs to create menu options from the fish that are farmed in the farming area.  These fish would be edible for consumption.
Engineering and Robotics: The goal for this program would be to create an underwater robot that can test the pH levels and salinity, and temperature.

North Middlesex Regional  - Nissitissit Middle School
NMS Raspberry Pi Technology Program

Nissitissit Middle School will use the Ignite the Power of STEM grant to purchase 42 Raspberry Pi computers along with numerous attachments for robot building equipment to include temperature sensors, weather station components, and display monitors. The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit card-sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. Raspberry Pi will be used to teach students the fundamentals of how a computer works.  By giving students the ability to examine one up close and to assemble the parts, they will get hands-on experience exploring the components of a computer and how they work together with code to create a computer. Given this school is in a rural region of Massachusetts, its science classes are able to explore the outdoors and do fieldwork. By using Raspberry Pi, the school will be creating a cutting edge program and allow students to see exactly how technology can be used to solve problems. Students will achieve ownership with the building process and learn that grit and resilience used along the way will lead to creating a device of their own.

Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School
Get the Lead Out:
Evaluating and Eliminating Lead Based Paint Hazards

Lead paint continues to be an environmental and health hazard across Massachusetts. Students will be trained to 1) identify lead paint in their home and work environments, 2) reduce the impact of lead exposure in their home and work environments, and 3) offer lead removal certification training to Grade 12 Metal Fabrication and Joining Technologies, Electrical Department, and House and Mill Carpentry students. An end goal is to prepare students for post-graduate study and/or the workplace.  Get the Lead Out allows the school to demonstrate the application of Chemistry to students’ daily lives via lead paint testing, as well as a potential career field as a certified RRPS professional.  It will allow for the demonstration multiple design/problem solving environments. Real life problem solving opportunities demonstrate to students that science really has a place in their daily lives.  Funds from the Ignite the Power of STEM program will pay for materials needed for this project.

Sandwich STEM Academy
Environmental Monitoring and Technology

This program will allow students in Sandwich STEM Academy’s inaugural year to explore various ways to learn about and monitor local environments using new skills and techniques, and be exposed to relevant STEM career paths in the local area.  There are three goals of this program: (1) to introduce students to field-based scientific methodologies and technology, (2) for students to learn about their local environments, the impact climate change and other environmental issues are having upon it, and possible conservation efforts, and (3) to partner with local industries, businesses and organizations who can introduce to current careers in the STEM field. By using field-based monitoring equipment such as HOBOs, probes, water quality tests, wind meters, and micrometers, students will play an active role as environmental stewards by monitoring local habitats. The process of monitoring local habitats, some of which are areas of critical concern, will give students an opportunity to learn scientific methodologies, such as the scientific method, establishing sound protocols and procedures, appropriate use of equipment, and collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. This program will engage local organizations, such as Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lewis Bay Research Center, and Cape Cod Community College, to work with students and introduce various ways they can use their skills as a career on Cape Cod.

Springfield - STEM Middle Academy
Carlisle Brook Preserve/Outdoor Classroom

The purpose of this project is to create an outdoor learning opportunity in the Carlisle Brook Preserve, a natural space adjacent to STEM Middle Academy.  Students have written letters to the Mayor and have received permission from the City of Springfield to design and build trails, construct bridges over ditches, and erect signs to identify different species of plants in the Preserve.  Middle school (grades 6-8) students will learn how to construct walking paths, which will also be used for physical education classes because the school does not have a gymnasium.  Students will construct real bridges and learn about civil engineering.  Working as biologists, students will become experts in the flora and fauna in the Carlisle Brook Preserve. They will monitor the health and flow of the Carlisle Brook. Other schools, scout troops, and families will be invited to visit the preserve and students will become Carlisle Brook Rangers who will instruct others about the brook and other features of the Preserve. Students will create maps, brochures, and signs of the Preserve.  Ignite the Power of STEM funding will be used to purchase materials needed for this project.

Waltham High School
Did You See That? I Did!

The Ignite the Power of STEM grant will be used to purchase advanced camera equipment for use by science students in all disciplines at Waltham High School. Go-Pro cameras, time lapse cameras, USB microscopes and high speed cameras would help students to actually see what happens during very fast or very slow reactions and processes. Students will use the equipment both in research projects and lab activities, and the equipment will be useful to teachers of all subjects on a variety of topics.  This technology is designed to be programmed to collect reliable sequential data that can be used to compare growth rates of the control and experimental populations.

Weston - Country Elementary School
Take it Outdoors: Green STEAM

Take it Outdoors: Green STEAM is a pilot environmental science program that integrates the draft Massachusetts Science Performance Standards with current Math, Language Arts, Engineering and Art standards. By utilizing the entire school campus as an outdoor learning space, the program will use field investigations as a means to develop students’ connections to the natural environment. With these field investigations as the focal point of new science curriculum, students will be able to ask questions, design and conduct investigations, evaluate meaningful data, use mathematical thinking, form explanations and/or design solutions, use arguments based on evidence collected from the field investigation, and share their findings. Funds will be used to purchase technology tools and materials.  Probes, digital microscopes, wildlife cameras, and iPads, and iOS apps will also be incorporated into curriculum areas to provide students the opportunities to connect with their schoolyard by equipping the students to observe, collect and share data about their school habitat over the course of a school year.

Weymouth - Abigail Adams Middle School
"little Bits" of STEM

Funding from the Ignite the Power of STEM grant program will fund the purchase of littleBits, which are electronic modules that connect using magnets. There are over 60 different pieces and millions of combinations that create a variety of things such as music, lights, and sounds that can be used to enhance projects. The kits will provide students with an experience that will introduce them to many different fields such as science, technology, engineering, math and coding.  Students will learn about electronics through a hands-on project that will encourage their collaboration, creativity and problem solving.

Worcester - Mass Academy of Math and Science
Professional Development for IOMIC/GOOD Training

The Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science is collaborating with the Biotechnology Program at the Rindge School of Technical Arts at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on a pilot project to implement the IOMICS Pathways Initiative Global Outreach for Orphan Diseases (GOOD) program for high school STEM education. The purpose of IOMICS/GOOD is to engage high school students in real medical research to generate important information that could lead to potential therapies for a wide range of genetic diseases. The program also provides a foundation for students for future learning in medicine, biological sciences, bioengineering, and computational science and aims to engage students in original research with the hope of inspiring lasting interest in STEM careers. The collaboration between the two schools adds value because it affords students and teachers the opportunity to build professional networks and practice real world life sciences research in a collaborative, cross institutional setting. The collaboration will also facilitate shared professional development and strategies for implementing the program as well as offer a case study on the outcomes of this pilot program that will guide further work in this field. Funds will be utilized for professional development for teachers from RSTA.

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