News from the Aurora University community

Tellabs Foundation awards $1 million to Aurora University to fund facilities and scholarships for high school STEM initiative

Posted by on March 17, 2017

The Tellabs Foundation recently awarded $1 million to develop, house and provide scholarships for a new STEM education program at Aurora University that is targeted at high school students.

The Michael J. Birck Innovation Engineering Program, which will offer the first two of a series of four courses beginning this summer, is the result of a collaborative effort between the university, school districts, local and global corporations, and nonprofit organizations to boost STEM education.

The Michael J. Birck Innovation Engineering Program and the Michael J. Birck Collaboration Center for Innovation in which it will be housed are named in honor of Michael J. Birck, the founder, CEO and chairman of Tellabs Inc. Birck died in 2015.

“STEM education — particularly for girls, minorities and children from financially vulnerable families — had always been a key area of interest for Mike Birck, and it remains so for us,” said Carol Gavin, executive director of the Tellabs Foundation.

“That’s one reason why the Tellabs Foundation was an early supporter of the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at AU, which is aimed at third- through eighth-graders. With the addition of the Innovation Engineering Program, area students now have the opportunity to experience a thorough STEM education from elementary school all the way through to graduation. That will be a game changer for many of them, and we are glad to be a part of it.”

The program will give high school students the opportunity to work directly with local technology and engineering professionals. Students will receive two undergraduate credits for each course they successfully complete.

Through hands-on, “real-world” projects, students will learn concepts and processes that are common in current design and engineering practice, as well as develop the interpersonal and communication skills that are required in today’s business world. Students will also build an awareness of ethical business practices and learn about a wide variety of career opportunities available in STEM-related fields.

“The Innovation Engineering Program is unique because our corporate and nonprofit partners were at the table from the moment we started planning,” said Sharon Miller, chair of the Aurora University Department of Computer Science and Engineering.