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Motorola funds bring minority high school students to engineering college this summer


By:  Bill Steele

 ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell University's Diversity Programs in Engineering will host a one-week summer program to engage underrepresented minority high school students in science and engineering, thanks to a $45,700 Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Foundation to support the CATALYST Academy.

CATLYST (The name came first, and organizers later decided it stands for Cornell Association for the Technological Advancement of Learned Young Students in Science and Technology) will bring 33 high school students from 15 states and three foreign countries to campus July 19-25 to explore engineering as a career. In lectures and labs, they will be exposed to various fields of engineering, and throughout the week they will work in teams on a college-level laboratory project, reprogramming bacterial DNA to produce complex proteins. Social events, panel discussions and other out-of-classroom activities will provide participants with opportunities to network informally with Cornell faculty, staff and students.

All of the students have demonstrated high aptitude for math and science but haven't necessarily decided on engineering careers, said DiOnetta Jones, director of Diversity Programs in Engineering. While organizers hope many of the students will eventually apply to Cornell, the primary goal is to foster their interest in engineering as a career.

"The CATALYST Academy not only increases interest and enrollment at Cornell, it also expands the engineering pipeline for other schools," Jones said. "Nearly 90 percent of participants [in previous years] decided to pursue engineering."

So far, 12 of the 30 students in the CATALYST class in 2007 -- the most recent for which data is available -- have applied to Cornell. More applications are expected from the three CATALYST classes held so far, since several participants were rising sophomores and juniors.

Motorola's Innovation Generation project supports programs that engage students in science, technology, engineering and math. In 2009, the Motorola Foundation is providing $5 million in grants to support out-of-school programming, teacher training, curriculum development and other programs. "Without this funding, many students would miss out on this wonderful opportunity," Jones said.

"Innovation Generation programs make science and math both real and fun for today's students, bringing to life what they hear from their teachers every day," said Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation. "The work Cornell is doing to engage students in these subjects will help our next generation to succeed in a global, knowledge-based economy where critical thinking is no longer just a benefit, but a necessity."

Jami Joyner, assistant director of Diversity Programs in Engineering and coordinator of CATALYST, will attend the first annual Innovation Generation Conference, July 13-14, in Schaumburg, Ill., to share best practices with other Motorola grantees.


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