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updated: 6/13/2013 6:06 PM

Palatine, Wheeling schools part of new state-sponsored STEM program

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Two local schools will be part of a new statewide program aimed at increasing students' interest in careers involving science, technology, engineering and math.

The Illinois Science and Technology Institute announced Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago that Wheeling High School and Palatine High School are among 14 schools chosen to participate in a new initiative called the R&D (research and development) STEM Learning Exchange.

Erin Lane, director of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition and Institute's STEM initiative, said Palatine and Wheeling will be great schools to work with because they have already been encouraging students to look into STEM careers.

The R&D STEM Learning Exchange is a pilot program and part of the $10.3 million Illinois Pathways initiative launched last year by the state to help prepare students to compete in the global economy.

Over the course of the 2013-14 school year, about 250 students will work with an industry or university mentor and participate in industry-sponsored challenges to get real-world research experiences.

Lane said what makes it different from other STEM programs is the degree to which it is a "public and private" partnership, as nonprofits, high schools, universities like Northwestern and the University of Chicago, manufacturing companies like Motorola and parents will all work together to help the students.

The hope is to get more students interested in STEM careers because there is a shortage of Illinois residents who are qualified to do the work manufacturing companies need done, Lane said.

"Illinois companies are having difficulty hiring the level of STEM experienced students they need in order to continue to innovate at the highest levels," Lane said. "They have a vested interest in growing Illinois talent.

"Everybody is collaborating, saying this a problem, this is something we can work on, this is something we want to work on," she added.

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