Biogen Idec Foundation Ignite the Power of STEM Grant Program winners announced

Apr 14, 2014

The Biogen Idec Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Ignite the Power of STEM Grant Program, which was launched at the November 2013 MA STEM Summit to commemorate the Summit's 10th Anniversary.  Biogen Idec Foundation awarded a total of $50,000 to 13 schools and teachers through the Ignite the Power of STEM Grant Program.  The programs funded spanned grades K-12, were geographically dispersed and represented urban and suburban districts.

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

We are excited to announce that the Biogen Idec Foundation will continue this program in 2014 for districts represented at this year’s MA STEM Summit. 

Congratulations to the winners!

Arlington High School
School Walls: A Permeable Membrane

The purpose of this program is to create and refine a structure for making the walls of the school permeable in two directions. Students in several pilot classrooms (initially Environmental Science, Oceanography, Physics and Chemistry - which have biological and environmental intersections with the community) would form 2-3 student "consulting groups." These groups would go out into the community (small businesses, civic groups, town agencies - conservation, land trust, etc.) and offer their services to collect data of one or more environmental variables (lighting efficiency, heating efficiency, water quality, etc.).  Students would then be responsible for generating a report on the patterns of data and make specific recommendations to the small business, agency or group, based on their findings. These reports would then be presented in the classroom with a representative of the business present (the reverse flow in the school walls). The community members would be expected to share relevant reflections of the interaction with students.

Belchertown High School
Belchertown Environment, Science and Technology (BEST)

BEST (Belchertown Environment, Science and Technology) is a continuation of the 2011 Toyota Tapestry grant, Belchertown Biodiversity: Let’s Get Outside.  With laptops and data probes secured with funds made available by this grant, students at Belchertown Public Schools will start building a high-quality archive of data collected throughout the year at several aquatic and forested ecological study plots in the BHS schoolyard, as well as the adjoining schoolyards of Swift River Elementary (grades 1-3) and Chestnut Hill Community School (grades 4-6) and Lake Wallace.  We aim to tap into the enormous potential for student engagement that arises from investigating real issues in their own backyards and the contagious enthusiasm generated in cross-grade partnerships.  One component of the program will address Belchertown’s critical concern status for Eastern Equine Encephalitis for the last 2 years. Students in the elective courses, Woodland Ecology and Life on Earth, will add measures of water chemistry as they continue to monitor the biological qualities of bodies of water on the school campuses and across the street from the schools at Lake Wallace.   Students will test for the presence and abundance of mosquitoes, as well as monitoring the populations of aquatic mosquito predators. With support, the 2nd graders from SRE will continue to join in data collection in the schoolyards and at Lake Wallace.  Students will regularly prepare their findings for the town Health Department, Conservation Commission, DPW and other concerned agencies/organizations.  The Biology classes will begin to integrate a long-term ecological monitoring program, utilizing a forested plot on the Belchertown HS campus, the Belchertown Experimental Forest.

Brighton High School
Robotics and Automation Engineering Hexbot Program

Hexbots robotics kits will be used for a hands-on Robotic and Automation Program wherein students will seek to understand the fundamentals of mechanical designs, electrical design, programing and functions. Program material includes introductions to computer programming including LabView and SketchUp, circuit design, motors, transistors, capacitors and resistors. Students will receive a basic introduction to topics in engineering, mechanics, electronics, robotics, architecture and programming that will allow them to build a solid foundation of skills that can be used in any of the STEM fields. Students will be expected to participate in project-based learning that will allow them to build technical skills in the area of mechanical and electrical engineering. They will begin to practice the interpersonal skills necessary to work well in team environments. This program offers a basic introduction to soft skills that are applicable to any professional environment including creative problem solving, implementation and execution of concept proposals, presentation and competition. Partnerships that provide opportunities to practice the implementation of these skill sets will be fostered with external organizations including FIRST robotics, City/Build, Harvard University and Skanska USA Building. Strong emphasis will be placed on safety protocols and students will learn how to protect the health and wellbeing of themselves and their colleagues in an engineering and manufacturing setting.

Everett High School

The NASCAR STEM is an initiative at Everett High School designed to allow students with a strong interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to explore the world of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing).  The purpose of the NASCAR STEM course is for the students to perform investigations, complete certifications, and compete against NASCAR Ten80 teams from other schools throughout Massachusetts for points and a chance to participate in the NASCAR Ten80 National Challenge 2014.

Falmouth High School

We seek to expand on the success of our current STEM program by converting an unused cafeteria at our high school into a second STEM lab and equipping it with the resources needed to make it a vibrant teaching and learning space.  With the increasing numbers of students taking STEM courses and increasing use of the current STEM lab by other teachers and students, we are becoming cramped for space, challenged in our ability to properly and safely supervise students, and limited in the projects students can pursue.  We hope to become a showcase for STEM education in Southeastern Massachusetts and we seek to encourage more students to pursue STEM fields in college or their careers.

Fuller Middle School (Framingham)
Fuller Bioengineering for Sustainability Project

The Fuller Bioengineering for Sustainability program will engage students in project-based learning with an authentic, real-world application that has a direct impact on students and their school community. Students will evaluate and redesign current cafeteria waste and waste management practices at Fuller Middle School.  Students will utilize 21st century skills as they learn how engineers evaluate design solutions and go through the engineering design process to conduct background research on sustainability; collect, analyze, and present data on current cafeteria waste; develop and propose sustainable solutions for cafeteria waste management; communicate their proposed solutions to the school community for approval and feedback; and implement and assess their sustainable waste management solutions. 

Students will be charged with the task of assessing current waste management practices and developing a project that will reduce cafeteria waste and increase environmentally-friendly, sustainable waste management solutions.  Student proposals for sustainable cafeteria waste management, along with their background research and justification for developing environmentally-friendly waste management procedures will be presented to a panel of adults in the school, including school administrators, teachers, parents, custodians, and cafeteria staff. This will allow students to develop and practice oral and written presentation skills. Students will then incorporate feedback on their designs and proposals to develop a unified program for cafeteria waste management to be approved by members in the panel.

Hudson High School
Collecting Data on the Ecology of the Assabet River

This project will engage students in authentic science investigations, teach students to use probeware and real technology similar to the instruments scientists use in the field, and to enable students to analyze real data they have collected in the field. This technology will allow teachers to provide authentic hands-on field investigations for students at a variety of grade levels.  By creating more authentic, engaging experiences students will be excited to learn more about what environmental scientists do in the field.  Students in Hudson study the Assabet River and its surrounding environment in 4th and 8th grade, and in both our high school Environmental Science elective and Advanced Placement Environmental Science courses.  Through the use of technology, students' data collection capabilities will be enhanced. This equipment will allow students to more accurately collect real data and gain a better understanding of the fieldwork of environmental scientists.

King Philip Middle School
Student STEAM Workshop

King Philip Middle School (KPMS) would like to create a student STEAM workshop day to be modeled after the Massachusetts STEM Summit. The purpose of this summit would be to expose middle school students to STEAM careers as well as provide an opportunity to explore STEAM activities that are not currently provided in our curriculum.  This program will excite middle school students about science through an engaging assembly such as Dr. Skateboard or a traveling program from the Museum of Science. Such an assembly would also reinforce fun real world applications of STEAM, and spark students’ interest in STEAM careers by giving them an opportunity to interact with local scientists, engineers, and artists that could serve as role models for KPMS students.

Qualters Middle School (Mansfield)
8th Grade STEM Careers Day

The eighth grade science and math teachers are sponsoring a STEM Careers Day for all eighth grade students. To accomplish this goal we are holding an "in-school field trip" - suspending all other academic classes for the day so that students may meet and interview a wide variety of STEM career professionals. These professionals have volunteered to come to school as guest speakers to inspire and enlighten our students about possible careers in science, technology, engineering and math. On the morning of the program students will attend self-selected small group presentations from several different guest speakers. After lunch all students will have a short period for reflection and self-evaluation.  Then, at the end of the day all students will attend an exciting motivational auditorium presentation.

The 8th Grade STEM Career Day goal is to inspire and enlighten our eighth grade students about possible careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Most eighth graders have never heard or dreamed of the amazing wide diversity of STEM topics and careers. Through this program, students will meet and enthusiastic STEM professionals who will share information about their current work, level of education, education pathway, source of inspiration and personal journey to their STEM career. We hope this interaction will provide students with excellent role models and for their own lives and careers. We hope this program will open student minds and eyes to the exciting world of STEM possibilities.

Newton North High School
Seeds To STEM

This project purposes to duplicate the mentoring process the InvenTeam students had with Saint Joseph School with the Citizen Schools of Massachusetts. Our goal is to bring a hands-on STEM education experience to these schools, which otherwise may never have had accessibility to the type of extracurricular STEM experience and professional expertise our class received last year here in Newton. In addition to providing Citizen School students with the programs and physical materials they need, InvenTeam students will also act as peer mentors. We will write the curriculum, complete with a detailed schedule outlining the different stages we hope to guide the Citizen School students through, before proceeding to implement the curriculum in September.

Seeds to STEM aims to help Citizen School students learn basic engineering skills and knowledge such as soldering, the theory of simple circuits, and the functions of the individual parts they will be using (fuses, proximity sensors, Xbee platforms, etc). This will be peer-taught from a hands-on approach, so Citizen School students can physically hold what they are learning about and see functions for themselves. We then plan on moving onto more complex concepts, such as writing Arduino coding and creating custom circuits. In the end, we hope to guide the Citizen School students through creating their own pedestrian alert system, including both the interior electronics in addition to the exterior structure design.

Wellesley Public Schools
Science and Technology Expo

The Wellesley Science and Technology Expo (WSTE) is a much-anticipated, town-wide event that is scheduled for Saturday, April 5, 2014 at Wellesley High School.  For one day, from 10am to 3pm, Wellesley High School will be transformed into an interactive hall of STEM activities.  The Expo will showcase hands-on exhibits and workshops presented by some of the area’s top colleges, corporations and museums, as well as by teachers, students and parents from the Wellesley School District.  In addition to the exhibits and workshops, the Expo will include a speaker series featuring several addresses by local scientists and engineers, as well as an hour-long "Meet the STEM Professionals" forum.  The forum will be a meet-and-chat opportunity for high school students who want to network with area professionals and get a better idea of the range of careers available to students who major in STEM fields in college.  The speaker series includes addresses by Elizabeth Kong, manager of the new Hall of Human Life at the Boston Museum of Science, and Nikolai Begg, winner of the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Invention, as well as by faculty from the Olin college of engineering.  The keynote address will be given by Dr. Jeff Hoffman, former NASA astronaut and member of five Space Shuttle missions.  While the event is aimed at students aged kindergarten through high school and their families, it will be open to anyone wishing to attend. To that end, we have secured the participation of both the Wellesley Free Library and the Wellesley Council on Aging, and we are publicizing the event in surrounding communities as well.  WSTE has a Facebook page,

Thomas Hamilton Primary School (Weymouth)
S.T.E.M. for T.H.E.M. (The Hamilton Engineering Minds)

The purpose of this project is to encourage creativity, critical thinking skills, cooperative group work, math skills, and leadership.  The ultimate plan is to create STEM opportunities for grades K-4 at the Hamilton school using LEGO materials. We currently have an afterschool enrichment program that gives students the choice of a LEGO club. Grades 1 and 2 have free building time with Legos to use their imagination to create with the materials. We currently have just a few Lego Wedo kits that we incorporate into the grades 3 and 4 club along with regular Legos. Students take turns using the Wedo kits where they plan, create, and program their creations using Lego software. We are seeking to purchase the classroom Wedo stem kits in order to use them during the day in class. Initially the kits would be used with grades 3 and 4 with the ultimate plan to have these students then work with the younger grades.

Worcester Technical High School
Forces of Nature: A STEM Integrated Learning Experience for Urban Students

The requested support will provide 400 9th grade students and their teachers/ chaperones from Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) with the opportunity to engage in an interactive, STEM-focused field trip to the EcoTarium, New England's foremost science and nature center, in the early part of the 2014-2015 school year. The EcoTarium is a leading informal educator and partner with Worcester Public Schools (WPS), with an extensive history of working with WPS to provide tailored educational experiences that enhance classroom learning, engaging students in real world applications of scientific principles, employing hands-on learning techniques that explain complex theories and issues, and providing insight into future STEM careers. Forces of Nature is an innovative out-of-the classroom experience designed specifically for WPS 9th graders with input from the WPS Science and Technology Engineering Liaison. Combining a full-dome digital program produced by National Geographic with our highly interactive Pond Ecosystem Program conducted by EcoTarium educational staff, Forces of Nature will provide WTHS students with: i) an experience designed to excite them about biology, ecology, and related earth sciences; ii) meet curriculum standards and the WTHS MCAS curriculum map, encouraging a firmer grasp of complex concepts by applying classroom learning to solve real world problems; iii) improve science literacy as they "become" researchers in the field using science journal articles and communicating findings; and iv) encourage awareness and exploration of science careers.

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