The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today celebrating the opening of its nearly $1 million cutting-edge science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classroom. The event marks a special donation from Robert H. Graebe, an East St. Louis native, and his wife, Norma J. Graebe. The couple lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The gift made the new state-of-the art facility, named the William Frederick Graebe Sr. STEM Learning Center, a reality.
The Learning Center features the latest technology, including a 70-inch multi-touch SMART interactive LCD board, 3D scanning and printing, and HD teleconferencing capabilities. It also includes a fabrication laboratory that allows users to design and create prototypes with moving parts that can be tested.
"This Center will provide the next generation of professionals with access to competency in the STEM disciplines, which are so critical for obtaining gainful employment in the global economy," said SIUE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift.
The ribbon cutting ceremony, which was sponsored by the Chancellor, the SIUE Office of the Provost, the SIUE Foundation and the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School, took place in Building B of the East St. Louis Higher Education Campus. "The STEM Learning Center will ensure that our students are stronger in math, science and technology," said SIUE Associate Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and Executive Director of the East St. Louis Center Dr. Venessa Brown. "This is their key to academic access and success."
The gift is part of Defining Excellence: The Campaign for SIUE . The new center will be a "model, high-technology STEM classroom" to provide students access to the latest technology, equipment and curricula, and will support teachers in providing students with hands-on, "minds-on" science learning, said Sharon Locke, director of the Center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach in the SIUE Graduate School.
Locke said the Learning Center, which is part of the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School, also will be used as a training facility for teachers throughout the region. "The Center will be designed to promote 21st Century skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork and technology literacy," Locke said, adding it should draw regional and national interest.
She added SIUE faculty, students in STEM disciplines and teacher candidates will work with the Charter School to support high quality STEM education and study the use of technology in the classroom and its broader impact. "The investment goes far beyond the technology and equipment that will be put in place—it is also a commitment to the teachers who will teach the students," Locke said. "Strong STEM education is one of the foundations for a vibrant regional economy."
SIUE has existing programs in STEM in East St. Louis, such as the Upward Bound Math & Science program, which provides enrichment in science and mathematics for high school students from East St. Louis and nearby cities. Upward Bound includes a residential program at SIUE in the summer and Saturday programs during the school year. The new Learning Center is part of SIUE's strong commitment to STEM education in the greater St. Louis region. The University's STEM initiatives provide students with a strong foundation to succeed in college.