Bucks IU Awarded Over $900,000 in Grants to Expand Computer Science and STEM Education

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU), an edu­ca­tion­al ser­vice agency sup­port­ing the schools of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has been award­ed state grant fund­ing to sup­port the cre­ation of new com­put­er sci­ence and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) ini­tia­tives in the coun­ty.  The grant fund­ing, total­ing more than $900,000, has been made avail­able through Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s PAsmart pro­gram and will allow the Bucks IU to sup­port the local com­mu­ni­ty in respond­ing to the pro­ject­ed region­al and statewide Pennsylvania lab­­or force short­ages specif­i­cal­ly in the com­put­er sci­ence and STEM job markets. 

The Bucks IU is both thrilled and hon­ored to have been award­ed these PAsmart advanc­ing grants,” stat­ed Dr. Lindsey Sides, a Bucks IU Supervisor and coor­di­na­tor of these grant ini­tia­tives. “These grant funds will allow the Bucks IU to con­tin­ue to expand our STEM pro­gram­ming for Bucks County stu­dents, teach­ers, and the com­mu­ni­ty at-large.”

The first grant, total­ing $412,656, will sup­port the cre­ation of a Mobile Fab (Fabrication) Lab and relat­ed edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams.  The Mobile Fab Lab will serve as a plat­form for learn­ing and inno­va­tion: a place to play, to cre­ate, to learn, and to invent by pro­vid­ing stu­dents with project-based, hands-on, STEM education. 

Housed with­in a tran­sit van, the Mobile Fab Lab will be equipped with cod­ing and robot­ics mate­ri­als, 3D print­ers, laser and vinyl cut­ters, and more.  With the sup­port of a highly-trained edu­ca­tor, the Mobile Fab Lab will trav­el through­out the coun­ty, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of pro­gram­ming to sup­port week-long pro­grams at schools, Saturday and sum­mer pro­grams for stu­dents liv­ing in home­less shel­ters, and sum­mer camps. 

The sec­ond grant, in the amount of $484,689, will fund the Computational Thinking in Action Program, a col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Bucks IU, the University of Pennsylvania, Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18, ARIN Intermediate Unit 28, and Central Intermediate Unit 10.  The Computational Thinking in Action Program will engage region­al teams through­out Pennsylvania to cre­ate a mid­dle school intro­duc­to­ry course on com­put­er sci­ence and a cur­ricu­lum for an after­school pro­gram in robot­ics and com­put­er science. 

This pro­gram also offers edu­ca­tors the chance to enroll in the University of Pennsylvania’s 30-week Experiences in Applied Computational Thinking (EXACT) Program.  Additional teach­ers will com­plete code.org’s Computer Science Fundamentals and Discovery work­shops, as well as two work­shops led by University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s Catalyst Center that are specif­i­cal­ly designed to sup­port com­put­er sci­ence ini­tia­tives in their districts. 

In addi­tion, the Bucks IU is a part­ner in these fund­ed PAsmart grants:

  1. The PA STEM Lending Library Coalition:  The Bucks IU is one of ten Intermediate Units across the state work­ing to devel­op an online plat­form where teach­ers can be trained and approved to bor­row cod­able items from their local Intermediate Unit’s lend­ing library. 

  2. The Southeast Pennsylvania-Chief Science Officers (SEPA-CSO) Program:  This grant, award­ed to the PA SEED Ecosystem, of which the Bucks IU is a found­ing mem­ber, will cre­ate a region­al chap­ter of the International Chief Science Officer (CSO) pro­gram in local schools.  Students in grades 7–12 from Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery coun­ty pub­lic schools will be elect­ed by their peers to serve as com­put­er sci­ence liaisons for their schools and com­mu­ni­ties.  These CSOs will receive spe­cial lead­er­ship train­ing, devel­op and pro­mote com­put­er sci­ence and STEM engage­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in their schools and com­mu­ni­ties, and work togeth­er with the adult com­put­er sci­ence and STEM lead­ers in their region. 

For more infor­ma­tion on the wide vari­ety of cur­rent com­put­er sci­ence and STEM pro­grams from the Bucks IU, or these excit­ing future pro­grams, please con­tact Dr. Lindsey Sides, Supervisor of STEM Programs at 215–348-2940 Ext. 1460 or email her at LSides@BucksIu.org.