Successful After-School Engineering Club Awarded Grant to Expand Program

Release Status: 
Contact Name: 
Stacey A. Ober
Contact Number: 
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The National Society of Professional Engineers, in partnership with the Alexandria City Public Schools and the Virginia Department of Transportation, has been awarded a $99,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to expand a successful engineering club at an Alexandria elementary school.

The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program grant will be used to expand the after-school engineering club at Cora Kelly Elementary, a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) magnet school. The funding will support the development and implementation of the Cora Kelly STEM Plus Program, a year-long curriculum of engineering activities, focusing on transportation, for all Cora Kelly students in grades K–5.

"This grant not only recognizes the huge success we had in developing the after-school engineering club this past spring, but opens the door to provide more students with an in-depth introduction into the wonderful world of engineering," said Stacey Ober, NSPE's lead staff person for engineering outreach. "We feel lucky to be involved and couldn't have asked for a better partnership than the one we have with the staff and students at Cora Kelly."

The Cora Kelly engineering club began in January 2010, and met one day a week with 15-20 students to engage in fun, hands-on engineering activities designed to spark their interest in the field. NSPE took the lead in starting and administering the club, as well as providing all activities, materials, and volunteers on a weekly basis. The organization's new role will involve coordination and consulting, plus offering activity ideas, engineer volunteers, field trip ideas, and staff support where needed.

Thanks to the grant, the club will be expanded to accommodate 100 students for two days a week, following four 10-week curriculum sections focusing on robotics, aerospace, green streets, and trains and boats. Students will be divided into two groups, one for grades K–2 and the other for grades 3–5, with both following the same curriculums, modified as necessary to accommodate grade level. A program manager, curriculum developer, and activity leaders will all be funded by the grant money, in addition to activity supplies and transportation for field trips that coincide with the activities.

A major stipulation of the grant is that no student be denied access based on gender, race, or whether the student is on the free or reduced-price lunch program. Although a magnet school for STEM, a majority of the students at Cora Kelly are minorities whose families are at or below the poverty line in the city. This makes the grant award even more important because it will allow and encourage students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to participate in such a program.

"The diversity of the students in the inaugural program was amazing and so vital to truly reaching the future of the engineering profession," said Ober. "I can't wait to see all of the different students and backgrounds that will comprise the new STEM Plus Program."

Work is underway to make parents and students aware of the new program, as well as to develop the curriculum and activities. The program is set to launch during the week of September 14, 2010, with the first 10-weeks dedicated to "robotics," which will begin with simple machines and increase in complexity over the course of the section. For more information on the STEM Plus Program at Cora Kelly, or on NSPE's outreach activities, please contact Stacey Ober at

Additional Notes: 

The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society of licensed professional engineers from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE has been promoting professional excellence for over 75 years. NSPE serves more than 43,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and more than 500 chapters. For more information, please visit