Kauffman Foundation grants $3.2 million to form KC STEM Alliance

Funding to support a new collaborative organization that inspires student interest in science and math education

Kansas City, Mo. – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced a $3.2 million grant over five years to create the KC STEM Alliance – a new organization that will grow and strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to build a stronger pipeline of students prepared for 21st century careers. The KC STEM Alliance is housed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Computing and Engineering.

The KC STEM Alliance, a one-of-a-kind model, will consolidate the program management for two organizations in the Kansas City region: Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and FIRST (FIRST Robotics, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Lego League). The KC STEM Alliance is designed as an over-arching entity that will leverage the strengths of these two and other STEM programs, in partnership with regional STEM industries. Through this consolidation, the Alliance will take advantage of the complementary nature of the PLTW and FIRST organizations to advance three goals: 1) streamline program management and marketing; 2) to develop a universal evaluation strategy; and 3) to create a plan for lasting impact and future sustainability for both programs.

“With a vision to increase students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the KC STEM Alliance will encourage students to pursue careers in scientific and technical fields, which will lead to building a long-term, highly skilled workforce for the Kansas City community,” said Carl Schramm, Kauffman Foundation president and CEO.

PLTW offers a variety of pre-engineering courses that students take in middle and high school to best prepare them for STEM-related college degrees and careers. PLTW courses augment many regular and advanced math and science courses. Through PLTW, students experience hands-on and project-based learning of math and science concepts by doing engineering design and building projects, as individuals and in teams. FIRST offers similar hands-on experiences through teams of students that collectively build robots, which compete in regional and national contests. FIRST is an extra-curricular program offered at many schools and through home-school groups. Both programs rely on the volunteer support and mentoring of industry professionals to help students learn how to design and build their projects.

The Kansas City region has the largest concentration of FIRST Robotics teams of any city in the nation — with 40 high school teams along with nearly 100 FIRST Lego League teams composed of elementary and middle school students. More than 10,000 students are enrolled in PLTW courses offered in 24 area school districts. Since 2005, the Kauffman Foundation has been a lead funder, with investments of nearly $5 million to help both the PLTW and the FIRST programs become established in the Kansas City region. Yet, both programs also rely on significant funding from other industry, state, federal, and community resources, along with support from volunteers and mentors from area companies.

The KC STEM Alliance is positioned to manage future growth of FIRST, PLTW and other STEM programs that migrate to become part of the Alliance. With the Alliance in place, both FIRST and PLTW will be able to support more programs and more participants within the current schools, in addition to expanding these programs into new schools.

“At UMKC, we are constantly seeking out new ways to work with the community and in particular with our urban schools. Thanks to this grant and the support from the Kauffman Foundation to create this new entity, we will have more ways to ensure that students are prepared for college with the knowledge, experience and skills necessary to succeed,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton.

Kevin Truman, Ph.D., Dean of UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering, serves as board chairman for the KC STEM Alliance. Laura Loyacono, who led Kansas City’s PLTW program for the past five years, was named the director of the KC STEM Alliance. Together, Dr. Truman and Loyacono will work with teachers and principals, school district leaders, community, state and federal funders, and industry partners to manage these programs most effectively and efficiently.

The KC STEM Alliance will coordinate funding, program operations, and the volunteer and mentor connections between schools and industry partners to make these two and other STEM programs widely available to students across the region.

About the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering

Located in one of the nation’s largest engineering communities, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Computing and Engineering is Kansas City’s only university with ABET-accredited engineering, computer science and information technology degree programs.

SCE’s internationally-recognized faculty prepare students for today’s competitive job market by providing a curriculum that includes the latest technology and business trends, as well as a comprehensive education in each field’s theory and fundamental practice. Our classes also build bridges to the professional world by partnering with local companies, organizations and engineers. To learn more about SCE, visit http://sce.umkc.edu/.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City:

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit www.umkc.edu. You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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