A National Science Foundation Funded research program, Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN), has awarded the Navapache Innovation Council a four year $200,000 grant.

The grant will support Informal (outside of school’s regular programs) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math experiences.

The NSF grant was co-written and directed by Kalman Mannis, of Concho, to help increase awareness of the amazing STEM resources and opportunities in all of the White Mountain communities.

This grant provides a unique opportunity for the region since similar grants focus on urban areas. This project will give the White Mountains a way to showcase natural and human resources, as well as STEM, in every facet of the lives of residents.

Currently, several local groups are involved in the grant, including the White Mountain Nature Center, the city of Pinetop-Lakeside, Navajo County, Show Low Chamber of Commerce, Ponderosa (Heber/Overgaard) Lion’s Club, the Navapache STEM Connection, First Things First, regional libraries, the Petrified Forest, educators, Arizona State University, Arizona Science Center, and the Arizona SciTech Festival.

According to Kate Dobler-Allen, regional director for First Things First and NAIC Grant Team Lead, “The funds we get from RAIN are to engage innovative ideas to develop experiences that highlight STEM from Alpine to Sanders, and from Heber to Holbrook. “Our team will act as a resource to help support, but the idea is that community organizations put on the events or experiences. We are looking to provide at least 12 grants a year over the next four years.”

To support the NAIC, as well as the three other regional innovation councils – Graham/Greenlee, Cochise, and Verde Valley, RAIN has established a website and Facebook page. The website, 4azrain.org, is live and will house grant applications, resources, local forums, and a calendar for STEM events.

The Facebook page, #NSFRAIN, will be the main social media outlet.

“We are going to show how Facebook and social media can reach all parts of the region. It will be a big part of our outreach efforts over the next few years,” said Susan Rodriguez, NAIC organizational team lead and Facebook guru.

Application for grants through the NAIC are available now. They have a quarterly cycle with a two-month notification timeline.

“Any regional organization can apply for funding a new STEM experience or to expand an existing event. This does include after-school STEM programs and clubs held at schools, libraries, or other locations. We will also help with marketing through our partner network, website, and social media,” Dobler-Allen said.

As for other future goals, Mr. Mannis, the RAIN project director, hopes to see programs throughout the White Mountains for years to come. And to show how innovation and creativity is a part of rural life, “we have an opportunity for folks to do and to learn new aspects of STEM in their lives, impact future generations, and support the 21st century work force.”

Visit the RAIN website, 4azrain.org, for more information on grants, participation with the NAIC, or partnership opportunities.

Kal Mannis is project director for the Rural Activation and Innovation Network.

BY Kal Mannis is project director for the Rural Activation and Innovation Network.

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