EPICS High program top winner in STEM education competition

November 29, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University's College of Engineering EPICS High program was named a top winner in a national competition for innovative approaches to science, technology, engineering and math -- STEM -- education.

The Engineering Projects in Community Service program for high school students took one of two judges' awards in the Partnering for Excellence: Innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education competition.

The competition, hosted by Carnegie Corp. of New York, The Opportunity Equation and Ashoka Changemakers, honored programs that identify creative ways to engage students, particularly in high-need communities, in STEM learning.

The other judges' award went to the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future. The top two winners each will receive $30,000.

EPICS is a service-learning program in which teams of students create engineering- and technology-based projects to help local not-for-profit organizations. The college-level program was founded at Purdue in 1995. Purdue created EPICS High in 2006 to involve high school students in the same type of effort. Purdue is the headquarters for both EPICS University and EPICS High.

Currently, EPICS High includes 50 schools in 10 states and 23 international affiliate sites. More than 2,000 students participate. Of those, 44 percent are female and 61 percent are from minority groups, surpassing most early engineering programs.

"This award is a tribute to the incredibly innovative and dedicated schools, teachers and students participating in EPICS High programs across the country and abroad," said Pamela Dexter, EPICS High coordinator. "Their energy and dedication continues to drive the growth of the program and excite more students about STEM fields. We're honored to have EPICS High and Purdue’s College of Engineering recognized with an award dedicated to making the world a better place by solving the most pressing social problems."

One of the EPICS High projects that was included in the competition entry is at Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City. Engineering and aquatic biology students at the school are designing and building elevated outdoor aquaponics, irrigation and hydroponics systems in community gardens around Harlem. The project will help build community intergenerational collaboration.

One piece of the project involves students planning green areas inside a senior center. The areas will not only beautify the space but will provide better air quality.

In Indiana, students at Tippecanoe County's McCutcheon High School have partnered with the school’s guidance department in creating software to help Spanish-speaking parents more easily complete the registration process for their children. The software allows parents to input the information into the system in Spanish, and then translates it to English for counselor and school use.

Sponsors for EPICS High are The Martinson Family Foundation, State Farm Insurance, National Instruments, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), SolidWorks Corp., Rolls-Royce, Intel and The Motorola Foundation.

More information on the competition can be found at http://www.changemakers.com/stemeducation

More information on EPICS High can be found at https://engineering.purdue.edu/EPICSHS/   

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Source: Pamela Dexter, 765-496-1889, pdexter@purdue.edu