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Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program Would Boost Access to STEM Education Opportunities

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that she has introduced legislation that would boost access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for students across America that will in turn foster innovation and create a homegrown workforce that can keep our economy globally competitive in the future.  The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program specifically establishes a grant program within the Department of Education that school districts can apply for in order to support STEM education efforts, particularly those that are considered to be non-traditional such as robotics competitions.  The grant program also aims to broaden access to STEM education for women and girls.

“Investing in science, technology, engineering and math educational efforts will drive innovation and our economic competitiveness in the future.  The next generation of American workers must be proficient in these skills for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge globally, and that point underscores the need for us to make strategic investments now,” said Senator Shaheen.  “The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program would allow schools to participate in non-traditional STEM education efforts that will help train the next generation of innovators in our country.  It represents an important investment we must make on behalf of our students, our economy, and our future.”

Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Al Franken (D-MN) are all original cosponsors of the legislation.

Grants authorized under this legislation can be used to purchase items in support of team STEM competitions such as robotics; to provide incentives or stipends for teachers; to support costs related to regional and national competitions and for additional materials and to support equipment or facility use for a team.  The grants are competitive and preference will be given to rural or urban schools, schools in low-income areas or low-performing schools.  The schools or district is required to provide a 50 percent match to the grant from non-Federal sources. 

The legislation has already been endorsed by numerous organizations and STEM leaders across from New Hampshire and across the country, including:

  • NH Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Donald Tyler of Corfin Industries LLC
  • Firebrand International
  • Ken Solinsky, Founder, Insight Technology Inc and 2009 National Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipient
  • Albany Engineered Composites
  • Belknap Economic Development Corporation
  • BAE
  • The National Defense Industrial Association
  • QmagiQ
  • Hypertherm

“Hands-on education does far more than just teach our Nation’s youth about science and math. These programs help create the excitement about engineering and passion for technology that inspire our students to pursue the STEM-related degrees and professions so essential to America’s ability to compete. We enthusiastically support Senator Shaheen’s legislation to provide much-needed funding for STEM education,” said Linda Hudson, President and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc.

“This proposed bill goes to the heart of NDIA’s STEM Strategy—National Strategy For Local Action. The Defense Industry is excited about the opportunity to engage students at the local level in competitions and other STEM initiatives. The fund matching feature of the bill, where both the government and industry engage in ‘what is working’ together, helps drive local action to increase STEM engagement,” added Edward Swallow, Chairman of the STEM Workforce Division of the National Defense Industrial Association.

Programs like FIRST Robotics, headquartered in New Hampshire, would be eligible to apply for funding under this bill. 

“Senator Shaheen’s support for FIRST as a citizen, teacher, advocate, governor, and senator has been invaluable. Her work on behalf of STEM education is critical to America's economic advancement and global competitiveness,” said DEKA President and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Founder Dean Kamen. “The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program as important legislation for students, families, and corporations in New Hampshire and across the country.  

Shaheen has been a leader on STEM education efforts since her days as Governor and is a recognized leader by STEM Connector in their 100 Women in STEM publication. Earlier this week she joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) to launch the Senate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Workforce Caucus to raise awareness of STEM education and workforce issues, acknowledging that  a STEM-trained workforce is vital for our country’s economic prosperity, national security and global competitiveness.