Upward Bound Gets a STEM Boost

Castleton University’s Upward Bound program has received two supplemental grants to boost programming in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) for students attending nine regional high schools.

Upward Bound is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, with more than 950 programs at colleges and universities across the country. Its goal is to increase success in high school and to increase college attendance among low-income and first-generation students.

Castleton Upward Bound will use the $80,000 in grant funds to purchase technology that will engage students in in STEM studies, including 3-D printers, Raspberry Pi (a tiny computer board used to learn programming), and Spheros (a robot that can be coded from a smartphone or tablet).  There’s already a Raspberry Pi unit located in the Campus Center. The computer monitors and reports information such as air quality, temperature, Carbon Dioxide levels, and how many people are in the building.  

“The goal is to get students interested and comfortable with STEM and to get them to consider pursuing STEM careers,” said Director of Upward Bound Jennifer Jones.

Castleton Upward Bound will also be implementing a robust STEM curriculum known as Teaching Through Technology, or T3. This will provide staff with training, curriculum, and technical support.

“Students who are low-income and first-gen don’t pursue technical careers or careers of the future, they stick with careers they know about already – teachers, nurses,” Jones said. “They don’t know what other options are out there. We hope that this programming will encourage them to pursue a higher-paying career or spark some excitement about a career that’s not even invented yet.”

Upward Bound will be hosting a STEM Academy for students in the Castleton program, where they’ll begin to think more about STEM and be introduced to plans for summer STEM courses, with juniors and seniors able to earn college credit. Upward Bound has hired two current Castleton students, Math major Brandon Bailey and Biology major Megan Nadler, as STEM mentors.

Castleton Upward Bound works with 123 students in grades nine through 12 at high schools in Vermont and New York, including Fair Haven, Mill River, Poultney, Rutland, West Rutland, Granville, Hartford, Salem, and Whitehall. Students engage in tutoring, career preparation, and college readiness activities through an academic year program and complete a six-week summer residential program on the university’s campus.