Jefferson holds MSTI breakfast to honor and thank grant providers

Ankit Agrawal, Staff Writer

Starting July 13, Jefferson has been holding the Middle School Technology Institute (MSTI) at W.T. Woodson High School, and has been able to provide students with the opportunity to have a taste of what Jefferson is like with week-long, interactive, STEM-based activities. And this year, Jefferson received grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Northrop Grumman, the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Washington Chapter, and the Washington Space Business Roundtable. So, on July 31, Jefferson then held a breakfast to honor those sponsors.

“We want to thank and honor the corporate and foundation supporters of the MSTI and also invite others from the corporate community who might be interested in seeing how the MSTI is run and actually getting into the classroom, seeing the kids learning and getting excited about STEM, it’s the kind of thing that will turn almost anyone into a supporter,” Hilde Khan, Chair of the Communications Committee in the Board of the Directors of the TJ Partnership Fund, said.

Sponsors were offered a morning breakfast, and after a short speech followed by honoring them with plaques, were then taken in groups to tour the school and the different classes. Representatives of the different MSTI supporters were able to view the many subjects being taught, such as “Fun with Electronics,” and “Design for Disaster.” They were also able to talk to the students in the programs, hear about their experiences, and see their final projects that were created throughout the week.

“We’re very committed to making sure students have opportunities to see what else is out there and they may not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue this because things do have a cost, especially with STEM programs, there’s some exciting equipment, but it’s certainly not free, so we want to make sure that that is not a barrier to students getting the opportunities and exposure to technologies and things that their school might not otherwise have,” Meredith DeMoss, corporate citizenship specialist of Northrop Grumman, said. “So by providing the grant funding we can help give more opportunities to our students.”

All sponsors provided a total of over 200 scholarships, aimed towards demographic and economic diversity, for underprivileged students to be able to attend this year. The INCOSE Washington Chapter, however, also held a class titled, “Rockets, Systems, and Simulations: Becoming the engineer’s Engineer!” during the last week of the MSTI, and it was taught by DeAnthony Heart, STEM Committee Chair of the INCOSE Washington Chapter. The program was used to introduce students to systems engineering and have them delve into the subject through different activities such as building and testing rockets and mousetrap cars.

“INCOSE did not have a STEM committee, and so we began our STEM committee, in fact, with the scholarship,” Gina Guillaume-Joseph, President of the INCOSE Washington Chapter, said. “And then, DeAnthony volunteered to be our STEM chair, and he jumped on it and ran with the concept of putting together a class, helping the students understand systems engineering, and getting them involved and active in developing something from the beginning all the way through the end, and then flying the rocket outside.”

In the last week of the MSTI program, thanks to the grants provided, students from Washington D.C. were able to attend a class in the program as well. Overall, the different grant providers allowed rising eighth and ninth graders who wouldn’t have been able to attend the MSTI explore classes that interest them and wouldn’t be able to take during the regular school year, thus getting them more interested in learning and providing them with a memorable experience.

“What I think would be great is if they come out of here with a deeper knowledge or deeper passion for one of the classes that they took,” Craig Lewis, MSTI Administrator and Jefferson Lab Technology teacher, said. “They probably didn’t know much coming into the class so if they can leave with like, ‘Man, this is a really cool class, I really want to pursue this is high school, I want to pursue this in college,’ and they get that foundation in here, I think that’s really important.”