The Rural Education Center in the Kansas State University College of Education has received its largest grant in history to improve distance learning.
The $451,480 Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilties Service and will support the center’s Rural Enhancement of STEM Education through Tele-Presence (a.k.a Project RESET). With the grant they will expand an innovative robot distance learning program. K-State College of Education Dean Debbie Mercer shared details Wednesday on a Zoom conference call about the Center’s Project RESET.
“Through Project RESET, we partner with 20 schools and supply 2 to 4 double robotics robots. The grant also provides one super cam tele-presence robot that is equipped for outdoor use for each high school site,” she said.
The Rural Education Center, as the hub site provides instructors for STEM courses and the rooms and laboratories from which those instructors will teach in.
There are 20 participating schools in 10 Kansas districts that will partner in the grant. No funds will be used to support personnel services. US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also joined Wednesday’s conference call. He says over $71 million in DLT grants have been approved for rural education and rural health in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
“This program hopefully will help rural residents tap into the enormous potential of modern telecommunications and internet for education and healthcare which are essential to economic and community development,” he said.
Mercer speaks to some of the long and short term goals the Project RESET program will provide.
“In the near future, Project RESET addresses problems for rural superintendents related to teacher supply concerns and school funding. Classrooms will be immediately filled with a licensed tele-educator,” she said. “Project RESET and the robots allow district to provide STEM as well as career and technical opportunities to their students.”
Mercer says the program creates opportunities for virtual field trips to facilities and potential virtual internships in addition to career and technical coursework sharing across districts. She also says the grant closes the gap between rural districts and their suburban counterparts.
“Without these course offerings in high school, rural students may arrive at universities already behind their suburban and urban classmates or they may never enroll or stay enrolled,” she said.
K-State says this latest grant expands a previous DLT grant received last December by the Rural Education Center, which totaled over $146,000 and supported eight rural Kansas districts.
Secretary Perdue pledged continued support to enhancing technology efforts to rural America.
“USDA will continue to work in the direction of President Trump to ensure all Americans have access to broadband connectivity and are not left behind in the modern economy that truly depends on e-connectivity,” he said.
Kansas schools participating in the grant are Andale High School, Andale; Axtell High School, Axtell; Cheylin High School, Bird City; Buhler High School and Prairie Hills Middle School, both in Buhler; Garden Plain High School, Garden Plain; Jackson Heights High School, Holton; F.L. Schlagle High School, J.C. Harmon High School, Sumner Academy, Washington High School and Wyandotte High School, all in Kansas City; Blue Stem High School, Leon; Ness City High School, Ness City; Osage City High School and Osage City Middle School, Osage City; Sabetha High School and Sabetha Middle School, Sabetha; Troy High School, Troy; and Wetmore High School, Wetmore.