ACC hopes to receive NSF grants

ALPENA – Alpena Community College recently submitted an application for an advanced technological education project called science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to Stern: Advancing Marine and Concrete Technician Education across the Great Lakes State to the National Science Foundation in hopes of receiving a $690,000 grant.

This National Science Foundation successor grant would build on the progress made during the first NSF-ATE grant to research and study carbon dioxide uptake in concrete and concrete masonry. The first grant was received in 2011 and was for $200,000 over a period of three years. This research has been, and currently is being, conducted at ACC’s World Center for Concrete Technology. This was the first award from the NSF-ATE that ACC has ever received.

“We’ve been engaged in primary activities with the NSF grant,” Dean of Workforce Development Don MacMaster said. “Researching the best way to capture carbon dioxide in block. As concrete masonry units cure, they pull in CO2 and sequester it permanently. We’ve made some headway there.”

The second activity involved in the grant was outreach. Secondary students toured the WCCT, listened to presentations and were engaged into the STEM learning world. Trade students from Alpena Public Schools and schools around Northeast Michigan have been putting an effort into learning through STEM thanks to the dedication of a few teachers.

“We have developed a series of online courses in the concrete world for delivery to the industry,” MacMaster said. “These courses are unique. There is nothing else like it.”

It is uncommon for community colleges to get research grants, MacMaster said. The first grant has drawn a lot of interest and bright people to the area which has resulted in a lot of positive industry support.

The new grant, if awarded, would be a three-year grant that would deliver a targeted yet multi-faceted statewide project that cuts across multiple activity categories. Activities with the grant would include marine and concrete-related technician-focused research, collaboration with partner community colleges, outreach to STEM educators and secondary level science students across Michigan, materials development, employer engagement, articulation with a four-year university, active cooperation with an existing ATE national center and professional development for community college technical faculty.

“The attempt in this new grant is to build on the two occupations programs that we have that are so unique,” MacMaster said. “We could link them in a way that ties the past and future, provides and opportunity for the students and is good for the community.”

The NSF grants are competitive. Twenty-two percent of grantees currently funded will receive grant funding for the next level.

“One of five of the projects the NSF thinks has merit, and will want to continue to fund,” MacMaster said. “We have a good idea, write it up well, have good directions, and engage our ideas on a national level.”

ACC will find out if it received the successor grant in late April, and MacMaster is hopeful the college will be chosen, but if the college doesn’t get the grant, he said it will keep going with the programs.

“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “Grants are an appendage faceted onto the side or front of college operations. They assist in operations and allow for us to move forward in different directions. If we don’t get funded, which very well might happen, we will keep going.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.