Fueling innovation: IPSF awards $200K in grants

By Ann Frances –

IPSF President and CEO Neda Eaton (left) surprised Kerry Rubel (right) at Oak Creek Elementary with a Mega Grant during the school’s fire drill. / Lisa Hu Chen Photography

How you teach is as important as what you teach. Innovative curriculum and teaching strategies enrich the student experience and ultimately result in better retention and higher test scores. The Irvine Public Schools Foundation recognizes this and has awarded in excess of $200,000 in grants to teachers who, through their grant applications, have demonstrated that they embrace innovation in the classroom.

At a Feb. 24 award reception at the Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine, some 29 projects will be funded by grants, including eight so-called “Mega Grants” that will receive up to $20,000 in funding. Projects include new innovation labs, e-sports technology, 3D printers, new musical instruments and flexible furniture designed to enhance collaborative learning.

“In order to prepare our students for the future, we must provide them with educational opportunities that give them hands-on experiences and skills that they can apply to real-world applications,” said Neda Eaton, president and CEO of Irvine Public Schools Foundation. “We are proud to support Irvine Unified School District instructors who are passionate about elevating student learning far beyond standard academic curriculum. We are also thankful to our community and sponsors who help make these grants possible for our students.” 

Over $2 million in ISPF grants to teachers and counselors have helped fuel innovation in Irvine’s public schools since 1996, touching more than 200,000 students. A major benefactor, Google Fiber, helped fund the Innovation Grant Program, along with parent support of Parents Appreciating Teachers and Staff, known as PATS.


School: Eastshore Elementary School
Recipients: Kelly Duncan
Name of Grant: Embedding Robotics to Promote Enrichment and Engagement 
Program Summary: 
Provides Ozobots Evo Classroom Kits and Blue-Bots to students in grades K-6 to teach fundamental concepts of coding and robotics. Funds will also allow teaching staff to expand their robotics curriculum.

 Northwood Elementary School
Recipients: Lacey Aguilar, Liz Kovacic, & Danielle Nunes
Name of Grant: Innovation for All – Big and Small
Program Summary: Provides a space for students in grades TK-6th grade to explore technology and STEAM activities on a weekly basis.

School: Oak Creek Elementary School
Recipients: Kerry Rubel
Name of Grant: Dream BIG with Rigamajig – Build, Innovate, Grow! 
Program Summary: Using Rigamajig Basic Builder Kits, students will have the opportunity to learn various science and engineering concepts through designing and experimenting. Students will explore their creativity though free play and guided design challenges. This grant is funded by IPSF in partnership with Google Fiber.

School: Portola High School
Recipients: Anthony Pham
Name of Grant: Preparing Student-Athletes for the Next Competition: Esports
Name of Grant: Provides students the opportunity to explore the world of competitive gaming and develop skills in communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Funds will provide professional-level equipment to enable instruction, competition, and student practice. This grant is funded by IPSF in partnership with Google Fiber.

School: Sierra Vista Middle School
Recipients: James Kang & Henry Miler
Name of Grant: Percussion Ensemble
Program Summary: Provides the equipment necessary to offer a percussion ensemble class, allowing student percussionists a tailored music learning experience.

School: Venado Middle School
Recipients: Karen Fisher
Name of Grant: De-stress for Success
Program Summary: Through the addition of flexible furniture, will transform their library/media center to foster group collaboration, student discussion, and deeper application of course content.

School: Woodbridge High School
Recipients: Daniel Pilchman
Name of Grant: High School Makerspace and Innovation Lab
Program Summary: Creates a makerspace for students to engage with technology and teach technical skills valued in the workplace such as 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser cutting.

Daniel Pilchman of Woodbridge High School was surprised with an IPSF Mega Grant for his project, High School Makerspace and Innovation Lab. /  Lisa Hu Chen Photography

School: IUSD STEM Department
Recipients: Chris Weber
Name of Grant: STAR Lab Equipment
Program Summary: Provides all elementary and middle school students a star lab projector to learn about astronomy and earth sciences.

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