Thanks to Best Buy and UC’s CECH, Tri-state STEM Clubs Set Students on Path for Lucrative Careers that Fuel Local Economy

Corryville Catholic students receiving check from Best Buy

Corryville Catholic students Trish Gibbs, Lavinia Ward and Aleia Samuels with Corryville Catholic Principal Linda Westendorf, UC CECH Assistant Dean Kathie Maynard, Best Buy Western Hills General Manager Joan Walsh, Best Buy Market Administrative Assistant Brian Stevens, GCSC Project Manager Mary Adams and UC Foundation Associate Director, Foundation Relations Susan Dunlap.

A talented eighth-grade volleyball player dreams of an athletic career, now with a technology back-up. A seventh grader with an aptitude for science sees a tangible place for design and technology. Her friend believes she can combine creativity and technology as one career.

A year ago, these Corryville Catholic Elementary students were not as focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) possibilities. However, the 3-d printer club at the school has sparked their imaginations. In fact, across the tri-state 13, 3-d printer clubs have increased:

  • Technical skills by 55 percent;
  • Seeing a way to address real-world problems by 40 percent;
  • Perceived STEM usefulness and application by 17 percent;
  • The ability to access situations differently by 15 percent; and
  • Understanding the value of learning new technology by 12 percent.

And a $5,000 Best Buy community grant to the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC) – a University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) community partner – will help fund returning clubs such as Corryville Catholic. Best Buy Community Grants support nonprofit organizations “that provide teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st century technology skills that will inspire future education and career choices,” according to the company’s website.

“The Best Buy grant means we can reach more students and that another community member is stepping forward and being part of the STEM solution,” GCSC Project Manager Mary Adams said.

Corryville Cathlic 3-d Printer Club members design and wait for their objects to print.

Corryville Cathlic 3-d Printer Club members design and wait for their objects to print.

“The 3-d Printer Clubs align with the heart of the grant program because,” Best Buy Market Administrative Assistant Brian Stevens said, “in a nutshell, the clubs are teens and technology. The opportunity for students to design, create, see problems and fix them is tremendous. ” This year, the technology retailer will award over $2 million in community grants nationally. Stevens said $73,000 is slated for his Cincinnnati-Indianapolis-Louisville-Lexington market.  

UC’s CECH sponsors the GSCS, according to Kathie Maynard, assistant dean for innovations and community partnerships at the college and part of the GCSC leadership circle, “to solve real community problems. We are primarily a college of helping careers with a community-focused dean who sees, as our mission, getting kids educated on strong career pathways. STEM education is an economic game changer with high-salaried positions. Even if kids don’t ultimately choose STEM, it’s still a gatekeeper. If kids are ready for STEM, they are ready for anything. We are looking to empower students, interacting with K-12 schools, students and other community partners in making real community change together.”

The GCSC has announced that 3-d printer clubs, where students design then print solid objects from digital files, will soon launch at Aiken High School, Girls Incorporated of Jefferson County, IN, Hartwell School, Hyde Park School, South Avondale Elementary and Corryville Catholic. However, interest currently outweighs available funding. Twenty eight schools, including last year’s 13 clubs, have applied. For more information or to donate, visit greatercincystem.org

Corryville Catholic Principal Linda Westendorf was grateful a Google search turned up the GCSC and funding to launch a 3-d printer club for sixth-to-eighth graders.

Corryville Catholic eighth grader Aleia Samuels poses with a 3-d model created of Yoda

Corryville Catholic eighth grader Aleia Samuels poses with a 3-d model created of Yoda

Eighth-grader Aleia Samuels of Avondale was part of the club last year and had not been especially interested in technology until she created and printed her own designs. Her favorite is a hybrid egg-rabbit-chicken keychain. “I’d never done anything like this before. Now I see so many possibilities and how to use technology in different ways.”

Seventh graders Lavinia Ward of Clifton and Trish Gibbs of West Price Hill joined the club together this year.

“I heard from a friend last year that it was fun and I wanted to create and make my own stuff,” Ward said. “I want to be a business owner and I think this new technology might help.”

Gibbs talked to her science teacher, who suggested she join. While she mulls over being a biologist, astronaut or veterinarian, she’s eager “to try out the design and technology.”

Coryville’s Catholic’s proximity to UC has brought “many blessings of technology help,” according to the principal. Six university students have assisted the 3-d printer club, others teach code to 6th graders and several psychology students tutor math.

The non-profit GCSC creates hand-on, heads-on learning for students to fuel the growing regional STEM pipeline by gathering education, community and business partners, including the 2016 Summer of STEM that served 2,5000 children through 30-plus community organizations. Eighty percent of area jobs in the next decade will require math and science skills. STEM jobs are growing two-times faster than others and pay 70 percent more. Funders include: the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, SC Ministry, University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), the University of Cincinnati Research Center, Partners for a Competitive Workforce and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jrs/US Bank Foundation.