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Science Center Awarded Grant from Office of Naval Research to Increase STEM Exposure for Philadelphia Youth

PHILADELPHIA--(September 12, 2022) – The University City Science Center has been awarded a three-year, $599,195 grant from the Office of Naval Research for its STEM education programming. The project, Future Uniform Technologies Utilizing Real-World Experiences (FUTURE), will be developed and run through the Science Center’s free STEM youth initiative, FirstHand, and will create a new educational experience for Philadelphia middle school students.

The FUTURE project is designed to increase students’ STEM engagement and interest in STEM careers through a naval-relevant curriculum focused on e-textiles and wearable technologies. Delivered through a 10-week curriculum, students will learn to program sensors and embed them into various textiles. Students will then apply this knowledge to prototype their own wearable technology. The project aims to directly serve approximately 200 seventh and eighth grade students from some of Philadelphia’s most underserved public schools.

“STEM educational advancements are more critical now than ever, as the global pace of innovations has accelerated and the STEM job market offers incredible future potential; however, the gender and racial disparities in STEM fields are stark,” says Tiffany Wilson, Science Center President & CEO. “Thanks to support from the Office of Naval Research we’re able to address this demand and disparity by developing a curriculum in which students design solutions for the future while gaining crucial skills to support their interest in STEM.”

FirstHand is designed to spark an interest in STEM career pathways for Philadelphia’s middle and high school students. FirstHand’s high-quality, multi-week STEM programming during school hours has served over 3,600 students in Philadelphia since the program launched in 2014. In addition, the Science Center has engaged 170 mentors from over 50 science and technology companies in University City and elsewhere to help facilitate industry-informed programming.

FirstHand programming takes place in a state-of-the-art learning lab at 3675 Market Street. The 5,000 square foot space features two wet labs, a collaborative makerspace with cutting edge prototyping tools such as laser cutters, direct-to-garment, 3-D, and large format printers.

About the Science Center
The University City Science Center is Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation, and economic growth. Established in 1963, the nonprofit has been recognized by The Brookings Institution as a best-in-class investor, mentor, and economic development partner for young technology companies. Working alongside industry partners and leading research and academic institutions across the globe, the Science Center has supported over 1,000 early-stage companies. Today, the organization advances healthcare innovation from idea to the marketplace through startup support services and building inclusive STEM pathways for Philadelphia youth and adults. For more information visit or follow us at @UCScienceCenter.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing