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Posted: Friday, August 28, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:14 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Rebecca LaFlure

Killeen Daily Herald

Local college educators hope to give math and science enrollment a boost this fall through a $1.2 million grant from the federal government.

Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University-Central Texas and Temple College have teamed up this school year to create the Central Texas 2-STEP project.

It's part of a national initiative to encourage Americans to pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math, or STEM, field.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project will focus on recruitment of high school students and transitioning military service members to receive an associate degree, and eventually move on to pursue a bachelor's in one of the high-demand STEM fields.

"The STEM areas are the economic engines that run our country," said John Idoux, the project's principal investigator.

"It's very important to have as many of our citizens as possible studying in those areas, graduating in those areas and then going to work in these industries."

STEM expertise is particularly sought after in Central Texas with several biomedical and agricultural research centers in the area. This includes Scott & White Hospital, Texas AgriLife Blackland Research Center, Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory and Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

"In Central Texas, the area continues to experience economic growth in the biomedical and agriculture fields," said Daniel Spencer, executive director of the Texas Bioscience Institute. "We need to work to maintain an adequate work force."

Starting Tuesday, the project will enhance Temple College's Bioscience Institute as well as create a greater cooperation between the participating colleges.

The Texas Bioscience Institute allows high school juniors and seniors from participating school districts, including Killeen ISD, to take classes for half a day at the TBI facility to earn dual high school and college credit. Through the institute, it is possible for a student to graduate from high school and receive a two-year college degree simultaneously.

The project would also boost recruitment efforts of recent veterans interested in pursuing a STEM career.

The grant will fund a Friday seminar program that brings guest professionals to speak with TBI students each week about their career and current research.

The grant will also place 20 TBI students or qualifying veterans in a research lab during the summer to work side-by-side with STEM professionals.

Additionally, the project hopes to ease the transition from an associate degree to a bachelor's by offering advanced courses at a community college that could easily transfer to a four-year or upper-level university.

A math-readiness summer program will also be conducted for STEM students who may need extra support before they begin their university studies.

"Our goal is for students to finish their associate degree, get them into a STEM area, keep them there and help them graduate with a bachelor's," Spencer said.

For more information on the Central Texas 2-STEP project, call Idoux at (254) 289-6093.

Contact Rebecca LaFlure at rlaflure@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7548.

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