STEM Instructor Receives MIT Honor

Atlantis STEM instructor Alexzandr Hirschmann was on April vacation when he got the email, but he couldn’t wait for school to return to session to share the news: he was selected as an Excite Award recipient and is a finalist for a $10,000 InvenTeam grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Each year, STEM instructors from across the country apply to the Lemelson-MIT Program.  Up to 35 educators are elected to receive an Excite Award based on their ability to lead a yearlong open-ended invention project at their school. Of those 35, only up to 15 will receive a grant.

“I am honored and thrilled to receive this award from Lemelson-MIT,” Hirschmann said. “It is great exposure not only for myself, but for Atlantis as well.  I look forward to the next phase of the application process and hope to have more good news to share with you soon.”

InvenTeams are made up of high school students, educators and mentors who use the grant to invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing.

Educators were asked to detail their proposed inventions in the initial application, but Hirschmann did not want to be committed to one invention, so he talked generally about the SouthCoast’s blue economy, its unique proximity to the ocean and its vast resources in terms of food and energy.

“I do not believe you can invent something with the intention of invention something,” Hirschmann said. “Invention is just as likely to result from a serendipitous opportunity observed in our community or noted in a conversation. If we are fortunate enough to receive the InvenTeam grant, I want to find out what Atlantis students are passionate about. We will identify a problem or need, pump it through an ideation process, and then come up with an invention.”

Hirschmann says there are many knowledgeable resources and mentors in the region who they can lean on for advice and assistance. Lemelson-MIT actually encourages InvenTeams to seek external support on their projects and will help them identify mentors.

Hirschmann and his fellow Excite Award recipients will enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to MIT in June to attend EurekaFest, a multi-day invention celebration. He will have the opportunity to meet with current InvenTeams who will showcase prototypes of their inventions during the festival. He will also take part in professional development in invention education, network with like-minded educators, and get some feedback to prepare the next stage of the application.

“Excite Award educators who attend EurekaFest leave the event prepared to ignite an interest among high school students in science, math, engineering and invention,” said Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer from the Lemelson-MIT Program. “They gain new techniques to empower their students through problem solving and encourage a sustainable culture of invention in their school and community.”

Final applications are due in September. Winners will be announced in October.

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