Earl Scime, Oleg D. Jefimenko Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University is the recipient of Eberly College of Arts and Sciences 2015 Outstanding Public Service Award.
Scime, who also serves as interim vice president for research development at the University, has championed STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) mentoring programs throughout West Virginia. Scime’s mentoring programs at the middle and high school levels have reached an estimated 3,000 students who are progressing into college at a rate of nearly 100 percent in a state where only 17 percent of 9th grade students complete any form of post-secondary education.
“Earl is a great representative of the spirit of service that characterizes so many faculty in the Eberly College who help realize the promise of a land-grant institution,” said Rudolph Almasy, interim dean of the Eberly College. “One of the reasons we are here is to serve those around us, and Earl does it with grace and dedication.”
Scime’s STEM outreach efforts began to extend beyond the university in 2003 when he learned that almost no STEM-centered after-school programs existed for elementary and middle school students in West Virginia. He was responsible for helping bring the FIRST organization (For Inspiration of Recognition of Science and Technology) to more rural areas.
Seeing the need for a dramatic increase in the number of STEM programs throughout the state and seeing that West Virginia was not providing local school systems with the resources to develop such programs, in 2008 Scime and a partner founded an umbrella non-profit organization, Mountaineer Area RoboticS (MARS), to develop high school STEM programs and to expand the middle school program throughout West Virginia’s 55 Counties.
The MARS program was featured in a 2010 documentary by West Virginia PBS and in 2014 hosted a 27-hour long robotics endurance event on the WVU campus with 400 students known as the WV Robotics Extreme. High school students from 13 states travelled for the event.
Nationally recognized for his work with STEM programs for middle and high school students, Scime is now a regular lecturer and instructor at the National Youth Science Camp. He also serves on a variety of STEM education councils and committees within West Virginia. In collaboration with K-12 teachers, he is in the process of developing graduate coursework for teachers seeking to strengthen their STEM teaching skills through continuing education classes at WVU. In 2012, his STEM education efforts were recognized with the FIRST robotics Woodie Flowers Award; given to a single high school robotics coach in the world each year.
Recipients of this award are listed on a plaque in Woodburn Hall on the WVU Downtown Campus, and are awarded $1,000 to pursue professional development opportunities.