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Perspective | Johnston Community College awarded National Science Foundation grant to expand STEM pilot, reach students with autism

Johnston Community College has been awarded a $635,012 grant from the National Science Foundation to expand its Bio Blend program. The first National Science Foundation award received by the college funded the pilot Bio Blend project, which blended applied engineering and biotechnology curriculum.

The pilot was so successful, Johnston Community College and local industry partners saw the need to expand the program.

Bio Blend 2.0 aims to provide the unique curriculum to all applied engineering and bioprocess technology degree students instead of a just a small cohort. The project will also address the need to increase diversity and inclusion in the STEM field as it relates to the neurodivergent population with a specific emphasis on individuals with autism.

Local educators will help identify individuals with autism who are interested in the program. Local employers have agreed to provide internships and to promote a neurodivergent work environment by encouraging staff to attend JCC-sponsored training provided by local autism services providers.

Another aspect of the program is that DeltaV training will be embedded into the curriculum. DeltaV is the distributed control system used by many biotech companies. The college already offers certification in DeltaV operations.

Bio Blend 2.0 will allow students to enter the workforce with the necessary training to build our local multi-skilled STEM technician pipeline.

“We are so excited that NSF saw the value in the first Bio Blend grant and awarded an expansion project that will be a benefit to all applied engineering and bioprocess technology students,” says Melissa Robbins, JCC’s biotechnology department chair.

“We are attentive to the needs of our students and industry, and we are confident this grant funding will be a major factor in preparing our students to be successful employees with the skills desired by our industry partners.”

Carrie Pitts-Densmore

Carrie Pitts-Densmore is the senior director of communications and marketing at Johnston Community College. Pitts-Densmore has 23 years of communications and media experience and also serves as the awards chair for the North Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.