Posted on November 7, 2017
By Brittany Williams
As part of its $250,000 pledge to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Union County, Lanxess has awarded grants to several schools.
The German-based specialty chemicals company came after acquiring Chemtura and its plant in El Dorado last September. At a grand opening event in April, Lanxess pledged its support as a “corporate citizen” and sponsor for school STEM programs over the next five years, according to previous News-Times reports.
“It is part of our corporate philosophy to actively assume social responsibility in the communities surrounding our sites — all around the world,” said Anno Borkowsky, head of the Additives Business Unit. “That’s why back in 2008, we launched a global education initiative with which we support school students in the field of the natural sciences in particular … We shall join representatives of the local school districts to work out some specific projects for El Dorado.”
Lanxess will award about $50,000 a year to schools and representatives from the El Dorado unit started touring the county to present checks to schools last week, public relations manager Kerry Herrgesell said.
“Lanxess in El Dorado is thrilled to be able to support the local schools’ STEM projects and to help foster a love for science, chemistry and engineering,” Herrgesell said.
At a school board meeting, Smackover-Norphlet School District Curriculum Director Jennifer Lee said, “We’re really excited to be partnering with Lanxess and we hope this will be a great partnership to support our student programs that we’re doing at the elementary, middle and high schools.”
While applications are still being reviewed by the Community Steering Committee, the company has awarded grants to Smackover Elementary School, Norphlet Elementary School, Parkers Chapel High School, Junction City High School; Barton Junior High and Washington Middle School in El Dorado, the PR manager said.
JCHS science teacher Katie Leopard said, “Herrgesell informed principal Joy Mason that a community steering committee had reviewed our school’s STEM application and agreed to robotics program submitted by (me). The committee, which is comprised over several engineers, plant operators and other employees was highly supportive of the project.”
The grant will supply robots and other equipment for competitions where Junction City students will compete with area schools. The school plans to start on the junior high level, grades 7-8, and work its way up, Leopard said.
The Smackover-Norphlet School District applied for a grant to fund “to refill materials and supplies” that’ll be used in its four STEM modules and provide engineering notebooks, according to the application.
“It is our belief that STEM education must begin at the elementary level as far down as kindergarten,” the application material read. “The cost of annually purchasing the elementary consumable materials is approximately $12,000. Funds received from Lanxess would … support the successful implementation of the Smackover-Norphlet School District’s elementary STEM program. The money would have a positive effect on over 500 elementary students.”
Washington Middle School principal Jody Vines said that the school will use its grant “to purchase programmable drones.” 700 fifth and sixth graders will progress through several types of code to grab things, maneuver
the drones and develop games, according to the school’s grant application.
“The media specialist and school librarian will work collaboratively with science classes to teach students about how drones are used in various industries,” Vines said.
Barton Junior High will use its grant to build a nine-hole mini-golf course on the campus. Through the schoolwide project students will use math and science skills and learn the engineering design process, principal Sherry Hill said.
“This will be done during Selective Instruction time. Many of our students have not seen a mini-golf course so they will utilize laptops to research,” Hill said. “Students must build a model to scale of their holes. They then must make a presentation or ‘pitch,’ including location of hole, materials needed and cost projections to the school administrations urging the admins to select their design. The designs chosen will then be built on Barton’s campus for the use of our students.”
The grants awarded so far account for over $32,000 or about 80 percent of the company’s yearly pledge.
Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or bwilliams@ eldoradonews.com . Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @ BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.