The Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of communications equipment giant Motorola Solutions, has committed more than $42 million for STEM education since launching its Innovation Generation grant program in 2007. The foundation believes that the United States will be facing a shortage of three million skilled STEM workers by 2018, a problem that traces back to students shying away from these fields as paths of study.
If all that sounds familiar, it's because so many corporations in tech and telecom are also fretting about STEM and pumping charitable dollars into this area—as are some manufacturing and energy companies, such as Honda and Chevron, which are worried about the supply of skilled workers in their industries.
Such giving is another example of the enlightened self-interest in philanthropy we see a lot of these days—companies making grants to address broad societal problems that also happen to impact their bottom lines directly.
This year, Motorola Solutions Foundation awarded $2.81 million in grants to 83 organizations that operate nationally and in specific communities where Motorola has offices. The point of this funding is to keep students pursuing STEM careers and help teachers improve STEM education.
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Applicants requested between $10,000 and $50,000 in funding, with an average grant amount of $30,000. The foundation gave priority to programs that focused on women and minorities, two groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, as well as projects that offered hands-on experience in engineering and technology. According to Matt Blakely, the foundation’s executive director, 2016 saw an increase in the number of successful applications geared toward tech education and incorporated concepts related to public safety.
The Motorola Solutions Foundation estimates that nearly one million students and teachers from elementary school through university levels will benefit from this year’s grants. The list of recipients shows a wide range of programs with specific, hands-on projects to get America’s students excited about STEM education, and to give Motorola employees an opportunity to volunteer their time and expertise.
For example, the Chicago Youth Centers Maker Lab program teaches students coding skills and provides experience working with 3-D printers, network security and other aspects of IT. The Women in Engineering/Computer Science program at Florida Atlantic University offers support to 400 female engineering and computer science students with networking opportunities, access to mentors and practical experience in their fields. At the Boys’ Club of New York, 100 low-income boys will get a chance to learn about robotics and build their own radio frequency transmitters and receivers.
Motorola’s grant cycles have closed for 2016, but the foundation offers three grant areas that interested organizations can apply for next year. The Innovation Generation grant application runs in January and February; Public Safety grant applications are accepted in February and March; and International grants go March through May. Our profile of the foundation lays out the criteria for organizations to consider when applying for funding.