NSF Grant Supports STEM Talent in Innovative Water Analysis Program

February 28, 2024

Illinois Central College (ICC) was awarded $349,397 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program called Creating a Workforce Pipeline of STEM Technicians Through Water Analysis.

“This project gives ICC a great opportunity to conduct applied research with our students and provide sound data to area farmers and agencies about cost-effective nutrient loss reduction strategies.”

Pete Fandel, ICC professor of agriculture

The three-year grant will create a pathway for students to enter the STEM technician workforce in Central Illinois. Project activities include enhanced curriculum for agriculture, biology, and chemistry students, work-based learning activities, outreach and career development activities, and professional development opportunities for ICC and area high school staff and faculty.

It will also gather research data for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (INLRS) to support agricultural mitigation and improve local water quality by reducing nutrient loss.

Pete Fandel, ICC professor of agriculture and project principal investigator, said, “Illinois is a leader in corn and soybean production, and researching ways farmers can reduce nutrient loss is a priority”

The NSF ATE program supports technician education by focusing on curriculum development, faculty development, and partnership development at two-year institutions of higher education.

The project at ICC will increase the number of STEM technicians in the greater Peoria area, raise awareness of STEM jobs and agriculture careers among diverse and underserved communities, and contribute scientific data to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Hypoxia Program via the INLRS, leading to improved agricultural conservation strategies for positive environmental and water quality outcomes in Illinois.