The Graham/Greenlee Rural Innovation Council (RIC) had a very active year. They funded 12 projects totaling $51,539.58 and provided travel funds for 5 educators to attend the Arizona Science Teachers Association annual conference. They hosted 2 community forums, one at the Blue Door Sanctuary in Clifton (Greenlee County) and the other at the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park Campus (Graham County). Each forum was designed to educate the community about the work of the RIC and to solicit project proposals. Both were well attended by businesses and non-profit organizations.
Contributing $5000 of RAIN funding, the Graham/Greenlee County RIC was awarded an additional $46,000 United Way grant to purchase the STARLAB Planetarium. This 22 foot inflatable planetarium allows for people to experience a universe of their own. With a height of 15 feet and a diameter of 22 feet, the Star Lab could hold up to 50 people and will feature exploration software and several short films across its dome.
The RAIN grant ensured community engagement in STEM while addressing the education focus of The United Way of Graham & Greenlee Counties. This allowed for a lot of flexibility in the use of the STARLAB. So, in all aspects, this partnership of RIC funds and UW funds was a winner!
Funding with Impact
Eastern Arizona College, with funding from the Rural Activation and Innovation Network and the National Science Foundation, partnered with the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative to host the 5th annual STEM Camp at Tonto Creek. Fifty-four excited 7th – 12th graders from the communities of Duncan, Safford, Thatcher, Pima, Ft. Thomas, Bylas, and Benson departed from the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park Campus on Tuesday, May, 28th for a 4-day, 3-night adventure. One of the highlights was having Native Americans represent 20% of those participating in the camp.
With partial funding from a RAIN grant, Becky Booth took eight Duncan High School students to the International Space Settlement Design Competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This competition is a real-world simulation that allows students to implement different aspects of STEM.
The group was able to fund Duncan and Clifton Public Libraries so that they could create a fun, weekly coding/robotics club that promotes STEM concepts, and also funded a STEM Lunch Bunch at Solomon Elementary School for students in K-8 that focuses on robotics and simple machines.
Goals, hopes, and strategies for RAIN in 2020:
- Aggressively recruit businesses or other non-profits to the grant program. We are very heavily education-based. It would be good to reach out more into the business community to solicit grants that will enhance STEM through relevant, informal STEM experiences.
- Offer STEM opportunities focusing on a balance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
- Continue to expand on current opportunities and build on the projects that have been funded over the past several years to help them be sustainable over time.
- Eastern Arizona College will be hosting the annual retreat for all four regions in Spring 2020. We look forward to providing a stimulating experience for all as we sprint to the end of what has been a wonderful growing experience, one in which we have worked diligently as a team of diverse individuals to create a positive perception of STEM in our communities.