Intel awards $1 million to schools

2010 SODA Star Innovator, Walter Payton College Prep.
2010 SODA Star Innovator, Walter Payton College Prep.

Things are looking up for six U.S. schools dedicated to providing innovative and effective STEM education, thanks to Intel Education’s donation of more than $1 million as part of the company’s Schools of Distinction Awards (SODA).

This annual award is in its seventh year as part of the company’s “quest to prepare tomorrow’s innovators,” and the six schools honored do just that in the areas of innovative math and/or science programs.

“The critical knowledge base provided by math and science education is the foundation for innovation,” said Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group. “These schools imbue a deep passion for math and science in the next generation, a critical requirement for America to remain competitive in the global economy.”

Twelve finalists were selected from 149 applications. The 2010 finalists were from Florida, Kansas, Texas, New York, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Ohio. You can find more information about these finalists here.

In recognition of and support for their efforts, each of the six winning schools will receive an estimated $160,000 through a combination of cash grants from the Intel Foundation and an award package of curriculum materials, professional development resources, and hardware and software from program sponsors, which include Blackboard Collaborate, Brainware Safari, Dell, DyKnow, I-CAN, SAS, Scantron, SMART Technologies, and Tabula Digita.

The six schools that received awards are Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Va); Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Roxbury, Mass.); Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School (Baton Rouge, La.); M.S. 223 The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (Bronx, N.Y.); West Elementary (Wamego, Kan.); and Walter Payton College Prep (Chicago, Ill.).

The awards were announced as part of a black-tie dinner affair hosted in Washington, D.C., Sept. 14.

“We have such gratitude for Intel,” said Amy Flinn, principal of West Elementary, “because they’re really committed to developing 21st-century skills in students and investing in the future. The sponsors are also providing a great opportunity to explore new hardware and software.”

“Now is the time for corporate enterprises to invest in education for the future,” said Doug Conwell, West Elementary superintendent. “We really are a believer in Intel’s mission.”

Faculty from West Elementary.
Faculty from West Elementary.

West Elementary, which serves students in grades three through five in rural Kansas, has 305 student currently enrolled. The school takes pride in many of its innovative math and science programs, some of which include a robotics club for fifth-graders, a six-week aerospace program for fourth graders, and a grant-developed outdoor science classroom.

“Group work and including real-world problem solving is so important in making students engaged and showing how STEM is relevant in today’s world,” said Flinn.

“All students, not just those with a natural proclivity to STEM, need these skills,” said Conwell, “because in today’s economy, even if you want to be an auto mechanic, you need to know engineering and math.”

Flinn said school representatives felt like it was Christmas morning after the awards were announced.

“One teacher said she wanted to put on her pajamas and put her hair in a ponytail and go downstairs to do our meetings,” she said.

Meris Stansbury

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