IEEE Members Instrumental in Increasing Digital Inclusion

IEEE Members Instrumental in Increasing Digital Inclusion
Pictured: EREC students learning at the direction of IEEE Ozark Section Member Robert Saunders.
EREC students learning at the direction of club student-founder, Case Kirk (center), now a sophomore electrical engineering student (and IEEE student member) at the University of Arkansas.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently awarded a federal grant to the Elkins Public Library in Elkins, Arkansas, to be used to help increase digital inclusion among local K-12 students. As part of the roughly $20,000 grant, the library is teaming with the IEEE Ozark Section to  expand K-12 students’ outside-the-classroom study of programming, electronics and robotics to help prepare them for secondary education and to thrive in the digital workforce.

IEEE members already provide mentorship and guidance for programs like the Elkins Robotics Electronics Club (EREC), which is open to students grade 7 and above, and which aims to build students’ analysis techniques and help them develop skills directly beyond the traditional classroom that are applicable to the real world. EREC’s expert mentor team includes University of Arkansas faculty and industry-based leaders who guide students in developing a year-long, real-world project. This fall, the students are working on a weather station for the Elkins Public Library.

Ozark Section members also act as mentors and instructors for a new club, Tinker Squad!, which welcomes students of all ages who want to learn the basics of circuitry. The Tinker Squad! meets once a week at the Elkins Public Library.

The grant funding would be used to enhance the existing HS robotics program with additional laptops for coding/design activities. And in partnership with the IEEE Ozark Section, library staff will organize two outreach events per year for K-8 students and receive training from IEEE members (all practicing engineers/scientists) to ensure the activities would be sustainable.

The local cost share for this federal grant is, in part, provided by the time IEEE members are donating to mentor the students.

“I’m very excited to get the word out about these kind of potential partnerships between IEEE and libraries,” said Elkins Councilman Matt Francis, a member of the IEEE Ozark Section, East Area Chair for Region 5, and a member of the IEEE-USA Entrepreneurship Policy and Innovation Committee, who helped the library apply for the grant. “The award is a great opportunity.”

IMLS is an independent federal agency that is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. Through its Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries (APP) initiative, IMLS supports projects that strengthen the ability of small and rural libraries and archives to serve their communities.

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