ExxonMobil on Tuesday announced the donation of $100,000 in seed money to help spread science- and math-related education throughout East Baton Rouge Parish public schools.
Lee and Scotlandville high schools are the first schools participating. They are part of what school officials hope will eventually be a districtwide STEM Learning Network; STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“We’re really investing in our future workforce,” Angela Zeringue, a plant manager with ExxonMobil, told a small audience gathered at Scotlandville High School.
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ExxonMobil has donated millions of dollars to the parish school system through the years, but for decades it has had a special relationship with Scotlandville High School and its magnet program in engineering; Zeringue herself has volunteered at this north Baton Rouge school in the past. ExxonMobil is a member of a multi-company advisory board that helps the students there. Scotlandville’s approach is a model for the kind of STEM Network that this $100,000 grant could allow to replicate.
Lee High School is using its slice of ExxonMobil money to buy materials and supplies for its new Introduction to Engineering Dual Enrollment course as well as parts to build robots for upcoming robotics competitions.
For their part, Scotlandville High students are planning to redesign a tree-covered corner of the school courtyard, now home mostly to squirrels, and convert it into a garden. Several engineering students were on hand Tuesday to show off a prototype of how they plan to irrigate the area, which took some work to find the answer.
“We had to see if this is a problem we could solve, but then we thought, ‘We’re engineers, of course we can solve it!’” Javian Perison, a senior.
Nzeik’ McKeel, also a senior and the project manager, said he and his team first wanted just to install outdoor seating, but the idea quickly grew. Plans now call not only for a garden, but also a gazebo, a disappearing waterfall and solar panels. They are calling it all “Leaving the Leaf on STEM.”
McKeel said the team is preparing to request a building permit from the school system and hopes to have the garden complete by March.
The $100,000 is going to the Foundation for the East Baton Rouge school system. This nonprofit foundation connected to the school system will dole out the money via competitive grants to schools. The grants can be used not just for student projects and industry partnerships, but also for teacher training and to research best practices.