Students at Nesbitt Discovery Academy are determining the average speed for a certain amount of dominoes to topple over. Photo: A-B Tech

A-B Tech Receives Support for Students Interested in STEM Fields

Students at Nesbitt Discovery Academy are determining the average speed for a certain amount of dominoes to topple over.  Photo: A-B Tech
Students at Nesbitt Discovery Academy are determining the average speed for a certain amount of dominoes to topple over. Photo: A-B Tech

A-B Tech Community College was awarded a $612,232 grant from the National Science Foundation through its Scholarships in STEM Program (S-STEM) to help the college better serve and support targeted STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students over the next four years.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “President Obama has articulated a clear priority for STEM education: within a decade, American students must move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math.”

This project – called Ignite Inspiration and Innovation, or I3 for short – will “provide outstanding opportunities to positively influence a next generation of STEM scholars by offering scholarships to students who show academic promise and have an unmet financial need,” said Dr. Jon R. Wiener, the principal investigator of the grant. He is the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at A-B Tech.

Co-principal investigators at the college are: Russ Palmeri, Susan Schwarz, Vernon Daugherty, and Tammy Sullivan.

The overall goal of the I3 project is to increase the retention and completion of targeted STEM students to enable them to competitively enter the workforce or transfer to a senior-level university in pursuit of a baccalaureate degree in a STEM field. Focus areas include biology, chemistry, math, and engineering.

One way that A-B Tech will achieve this is by offering scholarships to qualified students based on unmet financial need identified through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). “We know that too few young people are preparing for careers in the STEM fields which can lead to good jobs,” said Asheville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Pam Baldwin. “This new project at A-B Tech will go a long way to helping us encourage and incentivize students in this direction,” said Baldwin.

The I3 project will also offer specialized advising to students, tutoring, and opportunities to participate in seminars, college tours, and service learning. Mentoring and student-led research will advance discovery and develop professional skills. “Many studies have shown that we will have a shortfall of trained STEM researchers in this country over the next decades. We know that the best way to encourage someone to pursue a career in research is to light that fire by having them actually do open-ended and novel research,” Wiener said.

Students in the I3 project will have a chance to participate in internships and make visits to industry sites to gain valuable employment perspective and experience. “In order for America to remain competitive we must compete globally, attract investment, and create jobs,” said Ben Teague, Executive Director of the Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition. “One of the richest sources for improving our economic future is through innovation and STEM fields. This project at A-B Tech will definitely expand the STEM talent pipeline,” said Teague.

Graduating I3 students will also be supported in finding employment or in transferring to a senior-level university through A-B Tech’s articulation agreements and other resources. A-B Tech is partnering with NC State, Western Carolina University, and Appalachian State University to provide transfer planning and internship referrals for its students.

“NC State University would like to congratulate A-B Tech for receiving another National Science Foundation grant in support of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, which is critical to the economy of North Carolina. As the leading STEM university in North Carolina, NC State understands the importance of this grant and looks forward to supporting A-B Tech as they encourage students to explore careers in STEM,” said Thomas Griffin, Director of Admissions at NC State.

According to NSF, A-B Tech is one of 21 North Carolina colleges and universities – and one of only five North Carolina community colleges – to have an active S-STEM project. “We are honored and thrilled that A-B Tech will have an opportunity to better serve the region as it strives to create better futures for young people and grow the economy,” said Dennis King, President of A-B Tech. “We are grateful to NSF for selecting us as a recipient and excited to begin serving students,” said King.

About A-B Tech Community College

One of 58 colleges in the North Carolina Community College System, A-B Tech offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 60 curriculum programs through its five academic divisions: Allied Health and Public Service Education, Arts and Sciences, Business and Hospitality Education, Emergency Services and Engineering and Applied Technology.

The Division of Economic and Workforce Development/Continuing Education offers opportunities for workforce partnerships, specific job training and retraining, as well as personal enrichment classes.

A-B Tech enrolls more than 25,000 curriculum and continuing education students in programs at its Asheville, Enka, Madison, South, Woodfin and Goodwill locations. For more information visit

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