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U.S. Rep. Ron Kind presents National Science Foundation grant

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind presents National Science Foundation grant

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 31) was decidedly full for United States Representative Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), but that’s to be expected for the Third Congressional District’s representative. What made today unique for the congressman were the impacts and outcomes coming out of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Kind also presented a check from the National Science Foundation totaling just short of a million dollars to UW-Platteville faculty and administrators, funding the creation of College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science Recruitment and Retention Center.

“If we’re going to get this economy back on track, creating good-paying jobs and remain the most innovative, competitive and creative nation in the world, the greatest economic challenge we face today is global competition,” said Kind. “How we respond to the increase in global competition as a nation will define who we will be in the 21st century. What I’m also encouraged in seeing today is the private sector partnerships that exist here on campus, and that companies are realizing how vital it is to have access to the best educated and the best trained employees from college and universities like UW-Platteville.”

Looking at some of America’s biggest issues like the nation’s need to refocus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics­—or STEM—education, Kind’s tour highlighted some of the amazing things UW-Platteville puts in the hands of undergraduate students.

In August, the NSF approved $899,888 in funding to the UW-Platteville for the center’s creation and operation. The center will work collaboratively with campus resources to help bring qualified STEM degree-seeking students to campus and to provide tailored support to help students get from admission to graduation quickly and find job placements.

“Our nation is in desperate need of an innovation agenda,” said Kind. “The ability for our students to design and also manufacture right here on campus is a great one-two punch, and with the innovation center that we’re trying to move forward with right here in Platteville, it’s all piecing together nicely, this vision of how a campus like UW-Platteville can be one of those incubators of economic development and job growth that our state desperately needs.”

This grant comes on the heels of numerous NSF grants recently provided to UW-Platteville, a historic leader in the UW System in regards to science, technology, engineering and math education at the undergraduate level.

Kind’s tour weaved him through the labs and classrooms at UW-Platteville, including the Center for Plastics Processing Technology led by Dr. Majid Tabrizi; the student workspaces in Engineering Hall, where clubs apply their education to projects like the clean snowmobile competition; and the nanotechnology and microsystems engineering cleanroom, where undergraduate students use UW-Platteville’s atomic force microscope to visualize and manipulate materials as small as 5 nanometers across. By comparison, the width of a human hair is 100,000 nanometers.

“Science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields are where the future economy is going,” said Dr. Christina Curras, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Platteville and co-author of the grant. “If we don’t develop the STEM disciplines here, then we are going to fall further behind in the world economy.”

UW-Platteville, which has long been engaged in educational outreach for the general public, will also be leveraging the new STEM center to help better educate people on what STEM fields actually are. In a study by the National Academy of Engineering about the public perception of engineers, research pointed to the fact that messaging thus far has been ineffective in describing and attracting young people to such fields. The study was sponsored by the NSF because it too recognizes the need for a greater national STEM literacy.

“We want to have one place where anyone from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science who’s going to be doing any outreach to further the region’s STEM literacy can go to get the same materials,” said Tammy Salmon-Stephens, director of the Women in EMS and STEM Scholars programs at UW-Platteville and co-author of the grant.

Written By: Ian Clark, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, clarki@uwplatt.edu

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