Congratulations to Dr. Sherri McGuffin, STEM Coordinator at AdvanceKentucky and longtime KY NSF EPSCoR supporter, and Eric Wooldridge, Professor of Additive Manufacturing at Somerset Community College, for being the first Kentuckians to win the Science and Society Award by the National Science Board for advancement of STEM education and workforce development efforts around our joint 3D printing/additive manufacturing initiative. 

From the NSB Board, by Nadine Lymn:

Sheri McGuffin and Eric Wooldridge first met on a phone call set up by a high school teacher in the summer of 2019.

During the call, McGuffin, AdvanceKentucky STEM coordinator with Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, and Wooldridge, a professor with Somerset Community College in Kentucky, realized they had a lot of shared interests, like 3-D printing and all things Appalachia.

However, it was their joint desire to promote STEM opportunities for fellow Kentuckians that spurred a professional partnership in Summer 2020. They melded their unique skillsets to create high-impact, accessible additive manufacturing educational training programs that have reached over 5,000 students, 185 teachers, and 140 schools across the state.

Their AdvanceKentucky Influencer Model features additive manufacturing, a relatively inexpensive process with a curriculum that uses generative AI and 3-D printing to create innovative designs. Their efforts have led to the creation of the nation’s first state-endorsed, high school additive manufacturing Career and Technical Education pathway, increased the knowledge base of Kentucky’s future STEM workforce, and helped support the state’s growing manufacturing industry. 

For McGuffin, it was important to have an equity focus. “There is a lack of representation in certain STEM fields for women and underserved populations,” McGuffin said. “I remember feeling left out during my own upper-level courses in math and computer sciences. It’s important to me to be that representation for young girls and inspire others to follow suit,” McGuffin said.

Students and teachers who went through the program have partnered with local small businesses to produce innovative engineering and advanced manufacturing solutions, increasing local revenue streams, generating patents, and landing products with national retailers like Amazon. The effort has galvanized partnerships for educators and students with representatives from City Hall, regional hospitals, local law enforcement, and small businesses.

“Our food, economy, and national defense all rely on STEM innovation,” Wooldridge said. “If we don’t out innovate and manufacture, our international status will drop.”

Wooldridge and McGuffin aim to train teachers in every school district and every high school in the state, identify more employers and industry partners for their program, and expand their model outside of Kentucky.

“Our biggest challenge right now is to create another Eric and Sheri and train them to continue this work in other states,” Wooldridge said.