A $50,000 grant from Boeing will help train Alabama students for jobs in the innovation economy.
The global aerospace firm and longtime Alabama employer awarded the funding to the Decatur City Schools Foundation for initiatives involving elementary and high school students. The grant will supply a composite lab and 3D printer, and expand a program in which students build their own electric cars.
Michael Douglas, superintendent of Decatur City Schools (DCS), said Boeing’s funding ultimately supports local workforce development.
“DCS is committed to improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education with a focus on increasing the number of graduates with 21st century skills ready for local engineering and advanced manufacturing jobs,” he said.
Boeing employs more than 3,000 people in Alabama and is one of the state’s largest private employers. The company has had a presence in the state for 57 years, with a wide range of activities, including research, design, development and manufacturing for space exploration, missile defense, commercial airplanes and other industries.
Earlier this month, Boeing’s Huntsville operation was awarded a $249 million contract modification supporting the only operationally deployed missile defense system capable of shielding the entire United States against long-range ballistic missile attacks.
Boeing’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is designed to detect, intercept and destroy long-range missiles during the midcourse stage of flight.
The company is aware of the need to provide advanced training opportunities for tomorrow’s engineers and researchers, officials said.
“At Boeing, we’re focused on inspiring and preparing the next generation to gain fundamental, 21st century skills through hands-on, experiential learning opportunities,” said Tina Watts, community investor for Boeing Global Engagement. “We’re proud to partner with Decatur City Schools Foundation to expand these STEM opportunities for students in our community and prepare them for careers of the future.”
The lab, including an oven, vacuum seals and downdraft tables, will be added to the current curriculum in the drafting, engineering and advanced manufacturing courses, providing an introduction to the use of composite materials in design, processing, testing and manufacturing.
Students will learn to fabricate, repair and fasten composite structures to meet blueprint specifications; design and build molds; and lay up composite materials for production.
Elsewhere, the grant will help seventh- and eighth-graders with the expansion of STEM courses in design, testing and production through 3D printing.
The grant will expand the Greenpower USA electric race car program for the system’s fourth- through sixth-graders. The building program, which introduces students to basic mechanics, tools and engineering concepts, will be integrated into the curriculum to highlight key areas, such as friction, electricity, materials, math and design technology while also being a fun hands-on activity.
“Expanding the Greenpower program into fourth through sixth grades includes the Formula Goblin project, which aims to inspire children ages 9 to 11 years old to take an interest in engineering in a fun and innovative way,” said Stevi Price, executive director of the Decatur City Schools Foundation.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.