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April 30, 2020
Amy Buchanan encourages students at Union Grove Elementary School to imagine a world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) beyond the limitations of the classroom; but ORAU wanted to fix that. On Wednesday, ORAU surprised Buchanan at her house with $25,000 for new classroom technology, hoping students will now get to explore, touch and see the STEM classroom they’ve imagined. 

ORAU chose Buchanan, who serves as the STEM teacher for all of Union Grove Elementary, to be the recipient of this year’s Extreme Classroom Makeover competition after reviewing her submission video demonstrating the rural school’s need for STEM resources. Teachers of third through 10th grade that work for an East Tennessee public school within 50 miles of Oak Ridge were eligible to apply to ORAU’s annual competition.

Competition applicants are asked to submit a video that creatively explains their need for technology in the classroom and how this technology will improve the educational experience of their students. Buchanan has applied to numerous ORAU competitions before in search of STEM resources for her classroom. She received the Viewer’s Choice award for ORAU’s Extreme Classroom Makeover competition in 2019, and she has won ORAU’s Extreme Teacher social media contest.“We’ve worked so hard, and I’m so grateful,” Buchanan said, holding her check for $25,000. “We’ve had so much fun. I’m excited to see what the kids can do with this.”

Now in its 12th year, ORAU’s Extreme Classroom Makeover has awarded teachers across East Tennessee with $25,000 for their classrooms. Since 2008, ORAU has awarded a total of $428,000 to area STEM education.

“The STEM curriculum is continuously evolving, and teachers are faced with figuring out how to accommodate those standards to enhance student education,” said Andy Page, ORAU President and CEO. “We hope to alleviate some of those challenges for teachers with resources from the Extreme Classroom Makeover competition, and to ultimately provide students with an inspiring STEM education that lasts for years to come.”

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education for the U.S. Department of Energy.
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