Polk County High’s Allsbrook awarded Biogen grant to fund science courses

Polk County High School and science teacher Jennifer Allsbrook have been awarded a grant of $5000 from the Biogen Foundation’s Ignite the Power of STEM NC grant program.

This grant program is administered by the North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF). The grant will be used to fund special STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses at PCHS including Engineering, Biofuels and Introduction to Biotechnology. In these courses, students learn the topics and techniques needed to make useful products and to solve real-world scientific problems.

Polk County High School science teacher Jennifer Allsbrook

In Engineering, students utilize the engineering cycle to design and build devices such as robots, helicopters and bottle rockets. Biofuels focuses on the conversion of waste vegetable oil to biodiesel, the production of soaps and cleaners from waste glycerin and considers the variety of alternative energy sources needed in modern society. Introduction to Biotechnology examines major biotechnologies including fermentation science for food and fuel production, DNA extraction and manipulation techniques, bioremediation, genomics and more. Students in this course participate in a research project called the Magnolia Detectives Project which is tracking the genetic relatives of a Polk County stand of Magnolia virginiana.

These science electives are a step above the normal course offerings at the high school level. Students are immersed in real science, practice scientific problem-solving in a hands-on approach and develop valuable bench skills that they can take with them into the world of work or higher education.

Allsbrook stated that the Biogen grant “will help to purchase consumable items needed to build devices for the engineering course, DNA manipulation kits and chemicals for biotechnology and resources needed for the production of biodiesel in the biofuels course.”

These STEM courses are all grant-funded and require a significant monetary investment to support. PCHS started the Biotechnology program in 2010, the Biofuels program in 2013 and the Engineering program in 2016. Allsbrook, the Science Department Chair and teacher at PCHS since 1993, said, “we are constantly creating new opportunities for our students in order to make them competitive in the STEM fields.”

The mission of the Biogen Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives and contribute to the vitality of the communities in which Biogen operates. The Biogen Foundation is committed to sparking a passion for science and discovery, supporting innovative STEM initiatives, and strengthening efforts to make science accessible to diverse populations. Visit the Foundation’s webpage for more information: www.biogen.com/foundation.

The NCCF is the single statewide community foundation serving North Carolina and has made $116 million in grants since its inception in 1988. With more than $222 million in assets, NCCF sustains 1,200 endowments established to provide long-term support of a broad range of community needs, nonprofit organizations, institutions and scholarships. The NCCF partners with a network of affiliate foundations to provide local resource allocation and community assistance across the state. An important component of the NCCF’s mission is to ensure that rural philanthropy has a voice at local, regional, and national levels.

If anyone has questions about the Biogen Foundation Ignite the Power of STEM NC grant program or how it will help PCHS STEM initiatives, please contact: Jennifer Allsbrook, jalls@polkschools.org or call 828-894-2525 for more information.