April 2, 2011

Shaheen: Students, businesses join forces

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen chatted with Insight Technology General Manager Randy Shaw
Friday morning during a tour of the Londonderry company.

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With pending legislation aimed at encouraging students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math-based fields, managers of local companies like Kenneth Solinsky are hoping to see more qualified graduates walk through their doors in the not-so-distant future.
Solinsky, the president of Londonderry’s Insight Technology, voiced those concerns to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, on Friday morning, when Shaheen visited the company to discuss her Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program, a bill she plans to reintroduce next week in hopes of ensuring a more competitive American workforce.

The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program, which Shaheen will bring to Capitol Hill Monday, would allow secondary schools to compete for U.S. Department of Education grants to support non-traditional STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Shaheen initially sponsored the bill early this past August, but it was referred to the House Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where it awaited action until now.

If passed, it would have schools partner with the private sector, both for material
 support and to provide mentors who can serve as role models, further enriching students’ learning experiences.
Inspiring future generations of mathematicians, engineers and scientists is something Solinsky is already quite familiar with.

Insight Technology, a company of about 1,100 workers, offers an intensive internship program for both high school and college students and is also an avid sponsor of the FIRST Robotics program.

Built in 1997, the company specializes in the development and manufacturing of night vision and electro-optical equipment, including thermal imaging systems used in firefighting, law enforcement and military fields.

During the summer months, Solinsky said it’s not unusual for Insight to mentor and host up to 30 student interns.

“The interns we look for tend to be those who are already interested in technology,” he noted. “They’re not the ones who just watch television all through high school: they’re the ones that might have joined their school’s Robotics team.”

Should Shaheen’s legislation ultimately come to pass, the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program would work hand in hand with the Department
 of Education. Such grants would be rewarded competitively to eligible school districts, with priority given to rural, urban or low-performing schools, or schools serving students from low-income homes.
Under review of the secretary of education, applicants would be asked to describe how they’d carry out STEM teaching programs using non-traditional teaching methods, identify and recruit mentors, support teachers through stipends and other incentives, recruit young women and individuals from populations typically underrepresented in STEM fields, identify private partners to support such programs, and evaluate the grant project.

In turn, approved school districts would be required to provide a 50 percent match using non-federal sources, though a waiver for the match would be available in cases where districts face serious financial hardship.

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