Program Aims to Inspire Young Engineers in Illinois Schools

Collins Aerospace and the Discovery Center Museum have forged a partnership to create an outreach program that will offer hands-on, interactive STEM activities to students in Rockford, Ill., schools.

by Shaquil Manigault, Rockford Register Star / January 24, 2020

(TNS) — Community leaders are investing in Rockford's future engineers and scientists by helping start the passion for math and science at a young age.

Collins Aerospace and Discovery Center Museum have partnered to create an outreach program that will offer hands-on, interactive STEM activities to students in Rockford schools.

The mobile science, technology, engineering and math lab was purchased thanks to a $75,000 contribution from Collins Aerospace. It will be operated by the Discovery Center Museum and consists of a van that will transport experiments and activities to Rockford schools.

The two companies are looking to inspire children to get involved with STEM subjects early in their academic careers with the hope of that passion carrying over into high school, college and eventually a career.

"If we can get them excited about science, technology and engineering when they are little, that enthusiasm will carry on," said Sarah Wolf, executive director of the Discovery Center Museum.

The aerospace industry is a major component of Rockford's economy, with Rockford-made parts on aircrafts all over the world. The Rockford region is the largest center of aerospace production employment in Illinois and sixth in the United States, according to the Rockford Area Aerospace Network. By fostering interest in science and engineering early on, Collins Aerospace sees a way to continue to build the region's aerospace strength.

"It helps us spark interest for people for future potential employees, but it's also a benefit to the Rockford area," said Eric Cunningham, executive director of electric power systems at Collins Aerospace.

It was important for Collins Aerospace, one of the region's largest employers, to be able to give back in a way that is multipurposeful to the community.

"...We already have over 120 businesses involved in Rockford in the aerospace network," Cunningham said. "So it's not just for our benefit but for the whole community."

The program is expected to run primarily after school hours, which is crucial for students to continue learning outside the classroom.

"What's beautiful about what we are doing here today is that the learning doesn't stop when the bell rings at the end of the school day," said Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Ehren Jarrett.

©2020 Rockford Register Star, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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