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MARY MEAUX: Indorama, teacher partnerships benefit local students

Students interested in science, technology, engineering and math have some great educators bringing innovative ideas to the classroom.

To help make the ideas come to fruition is Indorama Ventures in Port Neches. The company is taking up where its predecessor, Huntsman, left off with the presentation of STEM Innovation Grants to educators.

Indorama understands the correlation between their workers and the STEM fields of study and knows the future workforce is right here in our schools, Kim Hoyt, site director at Indorama Port Neches, said prior to one of two grant presentations Wednesday.

Five grants totaling to $10,000 were awarded to middle school and high school teachers across Southeast Texas to foster STEM education in and out of the classroom.

“We are thrilled to kick off our inaugural STEM grant program and honor teachers who are committed to furthering the advancement of STEM programs in their schools and communities,” Hoyt said. “This year’s recipients were particularly creative in their submission ideas and demonstrated unique ways that STEM can be used in a variety of learning paths – from science tools to software development technology.”

Grand prize grant winners Candice Curran, librarian at Port Neches-Groves High School, and Brian Cates, teacher/coach at Port Neches Middle School, each received $3,000 for their projects.

Cates plans to purchase Maglev kits to introduce the concept of magnetic levitation and compliment current curriculum that enhances the students’ real-world understanding of transportation and industrial technology. Experimenting with Maglev models will reinforce concepts about magnetism and electricity for the students, according to information from the grant.

Magnetic levitation, he said, plays a part in monorails, amusement parks and high-speed rails that are used in other countries. Each student will be able to build his or her own model cars for the project.

His students have also built balloon cars and rockets. On Wednesday, they were building tiny parachutes.

Curran plans to use the grant money to introduce Makerspace materials to the high school library.

In one area of the library is a poster of a tiger. Upon close inspection the photo is made up of tiny squares of color. Her grant will go toward materials such as these, which is a fun project for students and includes STEM skills usage.

Three other educators; George Navarro, Port Neches-Groves High School; Shari Shirley, C.O. Wilson Middle School and Nikole Jenkins, Orangefield High School each earned honorable mentions and will each receive $1,000.

The partnership with industry and educators is helping to educate tomorrow’s workforce.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.