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More than 40,000 students inspired by Nordson’s STEM outreach so far

At Nordson, most employees are aware that we support STEM learning within our local communities, but it's difficult to capture the sheer scale of what we do, how much we give and how many lives we've impacted over the years.

Throughout the past 20 years, Nordson has spent nearly $4 million to create and support programs that teach students from elementary through high school about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the communities where we live and work.

Cecilia Render, Director of the Nordson Corporation Foundation and Community Relations team at Nordson, explained why.

"We want to encourage an interest in STEM in students, partially because we need future employees, but it's also so students know that math and science don't have to be boring," she said. "Also, education is an equalizer. If you have an education then you can compete with your peers, no matter your socio-economic background or anything else."

Nordson currently supports five STEM programs that reach each age group between elementary and high school. Beyond providing sponsorship money and scholarships for students to attend, we also actively launch programs in new areas close to our facilities.

"We're helping them to expand across the country," Cecilia said. "We don't have each program in our communities, so we're helping them get set up where we are." That way, the programs expand along with Nordson's growth to ensure there is STEM-based programming in each community where we are in the United States.


Elementary School – Camp Invention

About 20 years ago, Nordson first partnered with a program called Camp Invention that teaches creative problem solving, teamwork and entrepreneurship to students from kindergarten through sixth grade. Led by teachers and high school age volunteer helpers, campers spend a week creating their own inventions, drafting patents and learning about famous inventors throughout history.

"Camp Invention, without a doubt, is the absolute best camp with which I've been associated," Jean Schwabe, a Camp Invention director, said. "Our campers love it, and they are inspired daily not only by their instructors but by the power of science itself. They develop a passion for discovery while they address real-world problems."

The campers agree. 

"In Camp Invention we learned that no idea is too crazy, that sometimes the craziest ideas lead to the best inventions," said Sanders, a third grade camper. 

Emma, a first grade camper said, "Every day at Camp Invention is the best day ever!" 

Since Nordson first partnered with Camp Invention, we've provided $1.3 million in financial support, and more than 11,000 children have participated. We currently have camps near our facilities in 15 states, so it's common for our employees' children to attend as well.

 

Middle School – Tech Corps and Tech Time

Five years ago, Nordson expanded outreach for middle-school aged students by partnering with a program called Tech Corps and launching our own Nordson Tech Time initiative.

Tech Corps (also called Techie Camp) is a one-week day camp that teaches kids to code, use 3D printers and even design their own video games. Campers also learn life skills like public speaking and leadership at a time when building confidence is crucial.

For parents, the camp's impact is clear. One mother had tears in her eyes as she explained why.

"Techie Camp saved my son's life," said Michelle Hunt, whose son attended the Tech Corps camp in Elyria, Ohio this summer. "He's always been a bit geeky and didn't have a lot of friends. But he's completely at home at Techie Camp. He has so much more confidence now, and he's gotten ahead in school."

"Please tell the people at Nordson," she added. "They have to know what a difference this camp makes for us. Please tell them."

Another mother echoed what Michelle said, and added "as a single mother, there's no way my daughter could attend this camp without Nordson's support. It truly has changed her life. I'm so grateful."

So far, Nordson has provided nearly $815,000 in financial support to Tech Corps, and 1,700 students have attended in six states. More camps will be added in upcoming years.

Cecilia Render visits a Tech Corps camp in Elyria, Ohio
Cecilia Render visits a Tech Corps camp in Elyria, Ohio


Nordson Tech Time is another program aimed at the middle school age group, but it takes place throughout the school year. The program involves a challenge for students that is customized by state and grade level to reflect the school's curriculum. Participating students create presentations and write essays on topics related to STEM or STEAM (A for art).

During an assembly-style show at each participating school, students win prizes like iPads for their participation. Schools that have a 75 percent participation rate in the competition are also guaranteed to receive $500 for their STEAM activities and programs. Plus, the teacher at each school with the highest class participation is also awarded a prize.

Since the start of this program, Nordson has contributed about $850,000 and reached more than 20,000 students in six states – California, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio – plus Rhode Island and Wisconsin for the first time this year.

During the 2017-2018 school year alone, there were 43 Nordson Tech Time school assemblies, $3,000 donated to schools and about 2,000 Nordson branded prizes awarded to students during assemblies.

High School – Robotics teams and SEMI High Tech U

Nordson helps high school students build their STEM skills by sponsoring robotics teams at 33 schools.

At many of these schools, Nordson employees act as coaches and mentors. They spend countless hours helping students create robots for competitions, but also developing their skills related to problem-solving, teamwork, project management, finance, marketing and more.

Many of the teams Nordson sponsors are part of FIRST, a non-profit, private corporation that operates competitive robotics competitions for students from elementary through high school.

Through the FIRST program, students create robots to show at competitions that are set up similarly to a trade show atmosphere. But while students are awarded for their robots, teams can also be awarded for their inclusivity, their own STEM outreach efforts and other aspects of a well-rounded group.

Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST, says the organization's mission is "to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." 

VEX, another robotics program that Nordson supports, has a similar goal, "to create engaging, affordable and powerful solutions that immerse students in STEM through the excitement of building and programming robots."

Throughout the past nine years, Nordson has provided $770,000 in support for robotics teams that have served more than 8,000 students.

New this year, and the next step in our STEM outreach expansion, Nordson piloted a program called SEMI High Tech U in Carlsbad, California. Joe Stockunas, Executive Vice President, AT-ES at Nordson, launched the initiative with the aim of showing students how STEM skills are relevant for high tech jobs. He also serves on the board of SEMI, an organization that aims to promote development and innovation in the electronics industry. 

SEMI Group Shot

SEMI High Tech U involved a 3-Day intensive workshop at our Nordson ASYMTEK facility. During the workshop, 30 Nordson employees led high school students through modules relating to chemistry, biology, engineering and design. Students also created resumes, participated in mock interviews and toured the University of California, San Diego. Toward the end of the program, students selected four leaders from their class who became finalists in a speech competition and the winner earned a surprise $1,000 scholarship from SEMI. 

 

"The kids loved it, our employees loved it –  it was a win win all around," said Sara Vaz, Program Officer at Nordson. "The kids really got to see how STEM skills translate into the real-world work environment. Especially since some younger Nordson engineers taught modules, so the students got to see someone close to their age working in a real job and real environment." 

 

On the last day, Nordson held a graduation ceremony for the student participants and their families. At the ceremony, one parent approached Sara to explain what an impact the program had. 

 

“This program has been life changing for my child,” The parent said. “Before this week, I had a teenager who I thought would live in my basement and play video games all day for the rest of his life. Now I have a teen who’s going to go to college. Can I drop him off here each quarter so you can keep him on track?” 

 

In total, Nordson provided $22,000 toward SEMI High Tech U and hosted 36 students this year. Since the program was successful, it will expand to Georgia, Ohio, Rhode Island and Colorado next year.