When Battelle awarded its first round of funding under a new STEM Grant Program in June, it changed the way the nonprofit research-and-development organization approaches philanthropy.
The program was the culmination of a year of brainstorming how to extend science, technology, engineering and math education to as many Central Ohio students as possible, says Eric Fingerhut, vice president of education and STEM learning for Battelle.
“We’re really led on this by our CEO, Dr. [Jeffrey] Wadsworth,” says Fingerhut. “It was Jeff who really challenged us in the education and STEM learning team and the philanthropy committee we have, really challenged us to think about how can we better integrate our support for the arts with our fundamental mission in STEM education, and how can we draw on new partners to better meet our mission of improving STEM education.”
A total of $460,000 was awarded to five programs:
Surge Columbus: A Creative Circuit for Youth, a joint project between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, the Wexner Center for the Arts and WOSUreceived $300,000.
The Living Library Museum project of the Granville Studio for the Visual Arts and Reynoldsburg City Schools got $50,000.
BalletMet Columbus’s Wiggle Jig Program received $50,000.
CATCO’s STEAM Residency project was given $35,000.
Science of Glass & Polymers, a project of the Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology, received $25,000.
Battelle kicked off the process by reaching out to new arts organizations as well as those it has funded or worked with in the past, says Fingerhut. The goal: finding innovative, interdisciplinary STEM initiatives. “What is going to drive job growth in our community is going to be the access that our businesses have to this kind of technologically prepared talent. So STEM education that is broad and inclusive and reaches all of our kids is critical,” says Fingerhut.
Under the umbrella of Battelle’s education and STEM learningprogram, Fingerhut oversees the Ohio STEM Learning Network, the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and a nationwide collective of SDTEM organizations and networks called STEMx.
The STEM Grant Program is still in an experimental phase,says Fingerhut, though Battelle expects to offer the grants in 2014 and beyond.