McKINNEY (Oct. 29, 2014) — When Jodi Roepsch was a 3rd grader, she had an experience that changed the course of her life. “Two gentlemen came to our class and did a demonstration with liquid nitrogen. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen and that was the moment that my interest in science was sparked.”
Roepsch is a Maintainability and Testability Engineer and Certified R6s Expert with Raytheon Network Centric Systems in McKinney, and she has a passion for helping kids aspire to career opportunities that they didn’t realize were possible in the fields of science, technology, math and engineering (STEM). It’s a purpose she shares with her colleagues and the company for whom she works.
The State Board of Education (SBOE) recently named Raytheon among 10 Texas businesses chosen as 2014 “Employers for Education Excellence” (EEE) in recognition of their ongoing support and commitment to Texas public schools. Raytheon earned Gold recognition, the highest honor awarded in the EEE program for its role as a long-time partner of McKinney ISD.
“Raytheon is very deserving of this honor,” said Dr. J.D. Kennedy, McKinney ISD Superintendent. “They have done a tremendous job providing resources, personnel and knowledge to help beef up and provide a meaningful learning environment for our students in the areas of engineering and physics. The LASER program, the MathCounts and MathMoves U programs and the mentoring that their employees do just show how much they support our community and the education that goes on in our community. They have been a tremendous help to our district.”
Raytheon’s Math Hero Awards recognize nominated teachers and volunteers for promoting math with their students in a fun and challenging learning environment. The awards are a component of Raytheon’s MathMoves U program, a national initiative designed to engage middle school students in math and science through a variety of programs including contests, live events, scholarships, tutoring programs and more. In 2012, Raytheon recognized MISD math teachers Trista Hennebry (then at Dowell Middle School) and Theresa Horvath (MHS) as heroes, and Glynn Smith (Cockrill Middle School) was recognized in 2014. Along with the recognition, came $2500 awards for the teachers and additional $2500 awards for their campuses.
Raytheon has been a vital partner in MISD’s mission to promote student interest and preparedness for STEM careers since 2006, and five years ago, Raytheon volunteers collaborated with MISD teachers and coordinators to develop the LASER (Leadership and Science Ensure Results) curriculum which was embedded in the District’s high school physics classes during the 2010-11 school year. Raytheon donated nearly $20,000 to help make it possible. Then, in 2013, the District was able to bring the program to 6th grade classes with the help of a $10,000 grant and additional volunteer support from Raytheon.
Through the LASER program, students collaborate to solve physics and engineering challenges while interacting with Raytheon employees during competition events, and Raytheon engineers visit high school physics classrooms several times a year to work with teachers and students on four different modules that focus on 21st century leadership skills.
“LASER and other STEM initiatives are driven by the desire to increase the STEM pipeline,” said Roepsch. “Studies have shown that in the United States, student interest in math begins to drop around the 6th grade. Through LASER, our goal is to engage students at both the 6th and 11th grade levels through project based learning, leadership skills and career exploration. In addition, LASER engages students on a very broad background as we demonstrate real world examples of how math and science impact their lives regardless of their field of interest.”
Raytheon’s involvement in MISD STEM education hasn’t been confined to the secondary level. Last year, Raytheon donated $37,000 to bring Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum lessons to 3rd and 4th grade classes. The EiE cross-disciplinary classroom units were developed by the Museum of Science in Boston with the aim of promoting and bolstering engineering instruction in our nation’s elementary schools.
During the same year, Raytheon volunteers helped implement the first district-wide high school “Battle of the Blues” Physics Olympics which pitted physics teams from McKinney Boyd High School, McKinney High School and McKinney North High School against one another in 10 diverse, physics-related competition events. It was such a success plans were quickly put in place to make the Physics Olympics an annual competition.
“Our relationship with Raytheon is a true partnership in that it is sustainable,” said MISD Partners in Education Coordinator Nancy Cowlishaw. “Because we worked together with them to write the LASER curriculum, and because that curriculum is ongoing, together we are able to make changes and improve it. Some of what we used to do at the high school level is now happening at the middle schools because we said, ‘Our middle school kids need to be doing this right now.’ Our ongoing partnership allows us to adjust.”
Providing a setting in which students can interact with professional engineers and scientists opens a new world of opportunity for them and makes the world of technology more real to them said Roepsch. “When our volunteers come into the classroom and the students find out they are not that different from us, they begin to believe in the possibility of what they can accomplish,” she said. “There are so many students that have no idea what the opportunities are and some that just don't believe they can be successful in a STEM career for various reasons. When our volunteers come into the classroom and the students find out they are not that different from us, they begin to believe in the possibility of what they can accomplish. I want to give back in any small way I can. I want to help students explore math, science, and career paths while teaching them about the leadership skills that will lead them down a path of success.
“Finally, at the end of the day, I [volunteer] because I love it!”
For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or email@example.com.
About McKinney ISD
One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,750 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.