$145,000 Contribution Focuses on Improving High School Graduation Rates
By Jan Smith
The College of Engineering has received a $145,000 contribution from AT&T to create a two-year engineering and technology program for an urban high school population, and to document its impact on high school graduation rates.
The funding from AT&T will enable undergraduate Inspiration Ambassadors from the College’s Technology Innovation Scholars Program (TISP) to deliver classroom and after-school engineering activities at the Josiah Quincy Upper School (JQUS) in Boston beginning in September.
Gretchen Fougere, associate dean for Outreach and Diversity for the College of Engineering, noted, “This contribution validates the extraordinary vision driven by the College and likely impact of TISP. It will provide the resources to apply formal methods to measure our program’s success and to advance its national impact.”
Fougere, who leads TISP, noted, “We are creating a diverse pipeline of secondary students who are motivated to graduate from high school because of their raised appreciation and understanding of STEM and engineering. This contribution will enable us to provide all the benefits of TISP engineering outreach: fun design activities, after-school robotics, and summer enrichment and scholarships and deliver our relatable role-models to a partner high school in Boston. We continue to engage students of all backgrounds and abilities and both inspire and prepare them for post-secondary success.”
AT&T’s support is a part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature education initiative focused on high school success and career readiness. With an unwavering commitment to data-driven education outcomes, AT&T Aspire has impacted more than 1 million students since its launch in 2008.
“We’re committed to investing in efforts that prepare the next generation of Americans for success in the increasingly competitive global economy, and the mentorship provided by Boston University’s Technology Innovation Scholars Program is a perfect example of the enrichment that our local urban students need and deserve,” said Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England. “We applaud BU and TISP for their passion for the issue and their proven track record of readying local students for success in college and in their careers. We’re particularly excited that Josiah Quincy students will have the chance to explore telecommunications projects with their BU mentors.”
The AT&T contribution will help measure the impact of this deep dive of TISP in one high school. A cohort of 9th grade students at JQUS will benefit from the program through 10th grade. JQUS students are a diverse and underserved population representative of many urban public schools where improving high school graduation rates and proficiency with math and science are concerns.
Richard Chang, co-headmaster at Josiah Quincy Upper School, said, “We are very excited to welcome Boston University’s Inspiration Ambassadors into our classrooms to make mathematics, science and engineering concepts come to life for our students. Engaging students in these real-world projects with college students of similar backgrounds will be significant motivators for them to focus on mathematics and science coursework and to attend college.”
TISP’s mission is to inspire and prepare a diverse workforce for 21st century technology-related fields. Each year, the program professionally trains and manages 50 select BU undergraduate engineers as “Inspiration Ambassadors,” who share their passion for and understanding of technology and engineering design with youth nationwide.
Inspiration Ambassadors visit middle and high school classrooms to provide information and experiences that demonstrate how engineers improve our quality of life and solve the problems that resonate with younger students. In Boston, the Ambassadors guide students in the engineering design process as teams innovate to create technologies associated with communications, energy, the environment and healthcare. In Boston area schools, for example, these design challenges relate to cellphone towers, wind turbines, fuel cells, robotics, and coding and app development. The technologies and engineering are derived from cutting-edge engineering research at BU and corporate supporters like AT&T.
The Inspiration Ambassadors, select undergraduate engineers majoring in biomedical, mechanical, electrical, or computer engineering, also mentor many after-school FIRST ® robotics teams, creating competitive robots in a short design cycle. The College has a rich partnership with FIRST®, with Dean Kamen and John Abele on the Dean’s Leadership Advisory Board, and scholarships and TISP available to FIRST ® participants.
Validation and Impact Research
Since its launch in 2011, the Inspiration Ambassadors have reached more than 13,200 young people in 26 states and six countries. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the program has had a direct and favorable impact on underprivileged youth, influencing many to seek out STEM coursework in high school, to graduate from high school, and even to pursue and secure university placements and scholarships. Five have received full scholarships for study at BU’s College of Engineering or other schools. Several of the former high school students reached and mentored are now Ambassadors themselves.
The AT&T grant will enable the program to empirically measure and document that impact, while also providing a test case with a dedicated cohort of students over two years. Lasting impact will drive further scaling and nationwide replication. The College has a comprehensive approach to creating a continuous flow of Societal Engineers, which is now endorsed and supported by $375,000 in gifts and pledges from esteemed ENG alumni, such as Girish Navani and John J. Tegan III, and the Argosy, Ingalls and Kern Family Foundations. The grant from AT&T comes on the heels of other recent corporate support from NASA and Accenture. The combined funding will go far to advance the College’s mission to create a continuous flow of diverse graduates ready for college STEM majors and the workforce.