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Apr 19, 2017 11:36 AM EDT

The National Science Foundation awared a $1.3 million grant to 18 University of West Florida students. The five-year grant will support UWF students in pursuing teaching careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Dr. John Pecore, an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership in UWF's College of Education and Professional Studies said the 18 STEM majors will become Robert Noyce Scholars. They will receive funding to cover the cost of attending UWF during their junior and senior years. Pecore was the one who proposed and will administer the NSF grant.

In order to become an eligible Noyce Scholar, students must be pursuing a UWF-Teach degree. They will graduate in four years with a Bachelor of Arts degree in a STEM field and a Florida grades six through 12 professional teacher certification. This is made possible through collaboration between the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education and Professional Studies.

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Aside from completing the regular science or math major, they also get to complete education coursework and practical teaching experience. The grant will fund Noyce Scholars in a citizen-based education research project. They will collaborate with a Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering faculty member and a STEM master mentor in order to design lessons that will be meant to engage middle or high school students in an ongoing UWF faculty research project.

After graduation they are set out to work with an average of 150 different students per year for a total of approximately 750 students every five years, said Pecore. They aim to impact an estimated 13,500 students every five years in high-need school districts.

Interested student applicants must maintain a minimum GPA, submit faculty recommendations, write a two-page essay and will be interviewed. The Noyce program aims to recruit the best and brightest STEM majors to purse teaching careers. The grant will also fund recruitment of underrepresented students into the STEM teaching field.

Pecore will also conduct research during the program's five-year duration to determine what factors encourage STEM majors to purse teaching, Sandspaper reported.

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