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VCU’s schools of Education and Engineering Receive Army Grant to Promote STEM Engagement in High-Needs Schools

Project includes solar race car competition for Richmond-area students

VCU School of Education

VCU’s schools of Education and Engineering have received a $50,000 one-year grant from the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) to engage students from the Richmond region’s high-needs schools in the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) program. JSS is an educational program that challenges students to create fast, interesting, well-crafted solar vehicles. 

Jenilee Stanley-Shanks, director of government and community outreach at the School of Engineering, will serve as co-principal investigator of the project along with Elizabeth Edmondson, Ph.D., project director of science education grants at the School of Education.

“Engineering and education are a natural collaboration for STEM learning,” Stanley-Shanks said. “We’re excited to bring this hands-on engineering experience to youth in the Richmond region.”

As part of the grant project, teachers from Richmond-area schools will participate in a one-day professional development session to prepare them to teach students skills needed to design, build and race solar cars. The project also features a VCU Solar Jumpstart and Challenge Day with a racing competition for the student-designed vehicles.

At the racing competition, military personnel from Fort Lee and Fort A.P. Hill will be on hand to mentor students and assist with the race. Pre- and post-data will be collected from teachers and students to measure the project’s impact on content understanding, beliefs and perceptions.

“Our goal is to have as diverse a group of students participating as possible so that all students have an opportunity to learn about STEM opportunities,” Edmondson said.