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Not Your Parents’ High-School Science Club

Photo: Albert Lozano
Photo: Albert Lozano

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the launch of a new $10 million initiative aimed at providing high-tech equipment to high schools.

The MENTOR program, short for Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach, will be a partnership between the defense agency and private contractors and will also encourage cyber-electro-mechanical innovation through high-school teams and competition.

The teams will work on projects involving “the design and building of things like go-carts, mobile robots and small unmanned aircraft,” said Paul Eremenko, DARPA program manager.

“And we’ll encourage collaboration during the challenges through the use of social media and social networking applications,” he added

The initiative will begin with 10 schools, but then expand to 1,000 by the fourth year of the program, Eremenko said. The program’s collaborators include small businesses, universities, nonprofits and research companies.

The program bridges together DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Program, aimed at developing more efficient defense vehicles, as well as President Barack Obama’s push to encourage more student interest in science and engineering.

“Our success as a nation,” Obama said recently, in a variation on familiar themes, “depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation.”

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