Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation Receives Grants for AT&T “STEM@ Work” Program

Understanding how classroom curriculum translates into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers can be a critical component for engaging today’s students and teachers in creating tomorrow’s workforce.  Hands-on learning opportunities can provide the critical link of relevance for students and answer the age-old student question of “When am I ever going to use this?” while increasing their awareness and interest in STEM careers.

To provide this critical link from classroom to careers, AT&T is partnering with the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF) this school year to provide experiential learning opportunities for students from 29 school districts through 47 separate projects involving 52 local workplace partners.  Real-world application of STEM education concepts, problem-solving and critical thinking skills are all key elements of each AT&T “STEM@ Work” project.

The two projects in Okaloosa County being funded through the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation are Mary Esther Elementary’s Robotics Technology and Training program and the Niceville High School's Rockin Robots program being presented in partnership with the Doolittle Institute.

The objective of the Mary Esther Elementary Robotics Technology and Training program is for students to learn to problem solve and write code for different robot platforms.  The students will have robotic challenges that they need to explore solutions for, use different sensors, use loops and linear programming to accomplish the challenges.  They will have to write explaining their thinking both in academic language and computer If and Else statements.  The students will have to communicate verbally to explain their thinking/solutions to peers and adults.

The objective of Niceville High School's Rockin Robots program is to increase STEM literacy for students by providing a hands-on experience to encourage STEM related careers through robotic success.  Students will use robots to problem solve as directed for challenges, promote critical thinking  skills and high order conflict resolution, and use programming logic to explore and discover solutions.  The program will also create a partnership with business/community as mentors and collaborators in robotic training and competition.

“We know that industries engaged in STEM disciplines will create a majority of high-value, high-wage jobs and within ten years, almost nine out of ten new jobs will require education beyond a high school degree,” said Joe York, AT&T Florida President. “We are pleased to make this contribution because Florida’s K-12 education foundations are well positioned to be the link between schools and local businesses for students, enabling them to build connections with potential employers in their communities, get a sense of what careers they offer and the skill sets they require.”

Two additional CFEF partners have followed AT&T’s lead to provide similar programs with local impact throughout Florida.  The Motorola Solutions Foundation is funding nine larger-scale projects through a competitive grant process.  CenturyLink is funding 24 projects in their “Teachers and Technology Grant” initiative providing training and needed equipment to enhance digital learning in the classroom. 

About the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation

The Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation, Inc. (OPSF) is a not-for-profit community-based public schools foundation. It is a partnership between families, schools, community and business. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting and extending the educational opportunities of all individuals within Okaloosa County. Since its establishment in 1995, OPSF has funded educational enrichment programs including teacher grants for unique programs, student scholars in the Take Stock in Children Program, community educational initiatives, and student and teacher recognition awards. For more information on OPSF, click here.

Pictured above (left to right): Henry Kelley, Program Director, Community Affairs and Executive Director, Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation; Mary Beth Jackson, Superintendent of Schools; and Ray Walker, the Regional AT&T Marketing Director.