Students at Milwee Middle School had a chance to show off their STEM projects with legislative, corporate and school leaders last week. The Foundation’s Legislative Appreciation Breakfast celebrated the support of Senator Simmons, Rep. Brodeur, Rep. Cortes and Rep. Plakon, who advocated for Florida’s School District Education Foundation Matching Grant program. The program incents private investment in public education by offering a $1 for $1 match. Foundation donors like Duke Energy have a chance to double their investment and impact with our students.
This year, $4 million was appropriated for the state’s matching grant program – $85,959.25 earmarked for Seminole County. With this program and the support of private funders, school projects such as Exploration of Solar Energy and Elevating the Engineering Field for Girls have been made possible.
Visiting STEM companies, hearing from women working in STEM fields and participating in solar energy competitions piqued the interest of Katherine, now a Lyman High School freshman who wants to major in environmental engineering. While eighth graders Nicholas, Ru and David built an Automated Solar Runoff Reclamation System that saves money and keeps the environment healthy by catching chemicals in runoff water, recycling them and keeping them out of rivers and streams.
“I know that real world problem solving is the best way for students to understand, apply and remember concepts,” reflects Carol Unterreiner, engineering teacher at Milwee Middle School, “With Duke Energy funding – matched by the state – girls were introduced to role models and STEM careers that they might otherwise not known existed. They have designed and built solar ovens, solar cars and solar innovations that they took to the Energy Whiz Olympics in Cocoa Beach. Together, we are cultivating both responsible citizens and future STEM employees.”