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CHIPS Articles: ONR Announces Multimillion-Dollar STEM Grand Challenge

ONR Announces Multimillion-Dollar STEM Grand Challenge
By Office of Naval Research - July-September 2011
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy's and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology, with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners.

June 15, the Chief of Naval Research announced an incentive plan to award up to $8 million for ideas aimed at boosting K-12 education in the sciences. Rear Adm. Nevin Carr made the announcement during the Naval STEM Forum, in Alexandria, Va., June 15-16.

"Today's approaches to training and education must seek new innovative ways to sustain America's position as a global technology leader," Carr told the more than 650 government, academia and business leaders gathered at the forum.

"I wouldn't begin to pretend that the Navy is going to solve the country's STEM problem…there are others out there working very hard to do that," Carr said, "but we also want to make sure we are all intersected in a way that we can get the most out of the collective."

The challenge is one of many efforts the Navy has developed to encourage students, parents and teachers to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and careers. The Navy seeks to increase the talent pool of future Sailors, naval scientists and engineers through its STEM initiatives.

The Navy will award up to $1.5 million to each Phase One selectee. Teams will compete to advance to Phase Two. In the second stage, up to two teams will be awarded as much as $1 million each to extend their Phase One success to a Navy training challenge for another year. The technologies will be designed to meet students' individual learning style. ONR will issue the proposal as part of its Long-Range Broad Agency Announcement for Navy and Marine Corps science and technology efforts. Contract awards are expected in fiscal year 2012, and ONR officials anticipate multiple awards for Phase One.

In Phase One, participating Grand Challenge teams must develop an intelligent tutor, a system that uses computers and provides direct customized instruction to augment classroom instruction, which will serve as an aid for teaching middle to high school STEM curriculum. Teams will be evaluated on how well they demonstrate significant student improvement in retention, reasoning and problem solving at an affordable cost. Based on these results, up to two teams will be selected to advance to Phase Two.

In Phase Two, selected team(s) must adapt their "tutor," or software, to effectively address Department of the Navy-specific training audiences and criteria. The winning team will be able to demonstrate a tutor that cost effectively produces significant improvements similar to its Phase One effort.

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