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Northwestern Student Amanda Gregg wins second place in the NABT Student Poster Competition

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Twenty Torrington Middle School (TMS) students spent Friday, June 28th at Northwestern Connecticut Community College learning about Biology, Chemistry and Robotics.

The students were all part of the Experience STEM program and spent a week at Torrington High School learning about science through hands-on activities led by community college professors Sharon Gusky, Douglas Hoffman, Douglas Mooney and Crystal Wiggins. NCCC college students Nathan Benham, Amanda Gregg, Ashley Johnson, Joel Lemieux, Melissa Mellem, Jordan Osowiecki, Kate Seabury, Ian Severson, and Meghan Williams served as teaching assistants throughout the week.

During the week some of the TMS students explored water science while others built robots. The week ended with a field trip to the college giving the middle school student the opportunity to be college students for a day.

This program was funded by National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education grant #1801062 and is aimed at increasing student awareness of and interest in STEM careers.

The forty manufacturers in the Torrington area of Northwestern Connecticut include smaller, local companies, as well as national and global companies such as Wittmann Battenfeld and Altek Electronics. In addition, Jackson Laboratory, the leading bioscience company in the area, is located twenty miles away. These companies need employees at all levels of skills and knowledge, from technicians to engineers and research scientists. They rely on an educational infrastructure to provide a capable, industry-ready workforce. However, there is a gap between the industry demand and availability of skilled workers, and neither the technical high school nor the college is currently meeting these needs. For example, in the robotics and automation areas, industry need exceeds the trained workforce by almost 68%. According to the 2016 Chamber of Commerce Survey of Northwest Connecticut, maintaining and growing manufacturing was one of the highest priorities in the region and the lack of skilled applicants was cited as being the biggest barrier. This project, Engaging Students from Classrooms and Camps to College and Careers, brings 7th-12th grade teachers, community college faculty, students, and industry members together to develop a strong technical workforce. 

This project aims to increase the STEM interest and skills attainment of underrepresented and socioeconomically disadvantaged students in the Torrington School District. It will engage forty-four middle and high school STEM teachers and their students, using innovative activities to introduce students to careers as technicians. Teachers will participate in industry-based externships and professional development workshops. These activities are designed to help teachers better understand the roles of technicians. Students will participate in college visits and summer camps, designed to help them understand career opportunities for technicians. Community college students will learn about careers as technicians by participating in externships in industry, and will refine their knowledge and skills by serving as teaching assistants in camps and classrooms, and as mentors for the middle and high school students. Through this program, the community college plans to increase the number of dual enrollment college courses for high school students. The program will establish a support system for teachers through the formation of a STEM Community of Practice that includes teachers, college faculty, and industry members. The project activities are expected to support pathways for students to careers in the advanced technological industries in the region.

The National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program has been funding innovation at two-year colleges for over twenty years. With a focus on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy, and strong partnerships between academic institutions and industry, ATE promotes improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.

To learn more about ATE, please visit the NSF ATE program home page.