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NSF Awards U of M Grant to Support Virtual STEM Academy

For release: October 8, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

The University of Memphis, in collaboration with the Shelby County Schools district, has received a $1.34 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the Memphis Virtual STEM Academy at East High School. The grant award is part of NSF’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program and recognizes the Virtual STEM Academy as an innovative, pre-engineering strategies project for high school students in grades 9-12.

The Virtual STEM Academy investigates the implementation of an online STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum that provides students with self-paced modules, as well as face-to-face STEM laboratory projects and field experiences designed to help them understand pre-engineering concepts and develop an interest in STEM careers.

This strategy provides high-quality STEM educational opportunities to diverse populations of students attending high schools that are unable to offer an equivalent program of study.

Dr. Alfred Hall
Dr. Alfred Hall

“This incredible opportunity will allow the U of M College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and the Herff College of Engineering to forge a partnership with the Shelby County Schools district to enhance a unique STEM learning environment for its students,” said Dr. Alfred Hall, assistant professor of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership and principal investigator on the project. “In addition, our work together has the potential to help establish a national model for districts and schools across the country to provide similar STEM programs for students in urban districts and some rural areas as well.”

Eric Harris, principal of East High School, added, “The collaboration of the University of Memphis, The National Science Foundation and Shelby County Schools has placed East High School in a position to provide one of the most unique and rigorous STEM educational programs in the country.”


The Academy is established at East High, centrally located in the Shelby County Schools district, and provides a state-of-the-art laboratory facility and four highly trained teachers with engineering degrees and teaching experience. Students remain at their assigned high school but complete STEM 101 online coursework as an elective course each of the four years of the program. Students attend laboratory sessions at the Academy one day per week to participate in innovative and challenging lab projects, working to solve real-world problems in teams ­– representative of the 21st century STEM workplace. When STEM and graduation requirements are completed, the students will graduate from their home school with a STEM program concentration noted on their final transcript.

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