The Southwest Indiana Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (SwISTEM) Resource Center at the University of Southern Indiana was named the 2021 recipient of USI’s M. Edward Jones Engagement Award.
The M. Edward Jones Engagement Award is awarded annually by USI Outreach and Engagement and recognizes an individual, group, or project for excellence in leadership, commitment of quality, tireless service and dedication to lifelong learning in fulfilling the outreach missions of USI.
The SwISTEM Resource Center housed within the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education was established in 2007 when the University of Southern Indiana was selected as a lead institution by the Indiana STEM (I-STEM) Network. Initially, SwISTEM was funded through a Southwest Indiana Regional WIRED grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, and a portion of a National Science Foundation STEP grant obtained by the University. Upon expiration of the WIRED and NSF grants, USI leadership remained committed to the mission and vision of the SwISTEM Resource Center through endowed funding and support of the center’s day-to-day operations and programmatic activities. Since its inception and at stakeholder direction, the SwISTEM Resource Center emerged as a regional leader in informal and formal K-12 STEM education through the implementation of student-centered outreach programs, teacher access to hands-on/inquiry-based instructional resources and STEM teacher professional development.
The SwISTEM Resource Center staff includes Allison Grabert, Director of the SwISTEM Resource Center, Paige Walling, SwISTEM Service Coordinator, Dave Ellert, Instructor of Engineering, Dr. Doris Mohr, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Jeff Polak, Instructor in Physics and Kelly Sparks, Associate Professor of Teacher Education.
“The beauty of the awarding to the center instead of a person is that we also recognize the contributions of a wide variety of volunteers not just within the Pott College, we have had volunteers from every College and almost every mission element on campus help out with the offering the center has and puts on,” said Zane Mitchell, Dean of the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education.
The programs affiliated with the SwISTEM Resource Center include: The USI FIRST LEGO League Qualifying/State Tournament, Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair, Engineering & Manufacturing Creativity Camp (EMC2), Environment, Earth & Engineering (ID3E!) Virtual STEM Academy, Girls Only (GO) STEM! Summer Camp, Coding for Kids (after school program), Dexter Afterschool STEM Club, SwISTEM Equipment Lending Service, Teacher Professional Development, SeaPerch Underwater Robotics Competition and the INSTAR Books Collaboration.
“SwISTEM plays a vital role in the success of Helfrich Park STEM Academy's academic achievements. The staff at SwISTEM work tirelessly to accommodate and meet the needs of teachers and students even amidst a pandemic. The staff at SwISTEM is committed to quality real world hands-on education to inspire students to become lifelong learners. The knowledge, leadership and passion for education that the staff at SwISTEM has to offer the community truly take the program to the next level,” said Megan Wright, Science Teacher at Helfrich Park Middle School STEM Academy.
The SwISTEM Equipment Lending Service and other programs directly impact students in schools and other informal educational entities in 22 counties in the Tri-State region.
“The students in my science classes ask, 'when is the truck coming?’ The truck comes often. When I make lesson plans, this is the first resource that I check to see what is available to engage the students. They have equipment for every branch of science. Students acquire a better understanding of the content when they can demonstrate a concept, collect data, conclude data analysis, etc. and they love it,” said Charmaine Oxford, Middle School Science Teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School.
For more information about the M. Edward Jones Engagement Award, visit USI.edu/JonesAward.