Students in the Del Valle and Riverside learning communities demonstrated their STEM skills at two interactive events in November to showcase more than $167,000 in new classroom equipment made possible through grants from Marathon Petroleum Corp.

VJ Smith, director of government affairs with Marathon Petroleum and YISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre were on hand at both events to announce the new grants and to get a firsthand look at the various STEM student projects made possible with the new equipment that included robots, 3D printing, and laser-cutting.

“We want these kids to have the best equipment and be prepared,” Smith said. “We believe in what’s happening in schools, and we are excited to support this.”

In the Riverside Learning Community, grants were provided to three schools: Ascarate Elementary ($4,900), Ramona Elementary ($12,500), and Riverside High School ($100,000). In the Del Valle Learning Community, grants were awarded to Camino Real Middle ($25,000) and Del Valle High School ($25,000).

“We are working on robots; then, on our computer, we program it,” said Del Valle Middle School student Ana Lisa Madrid during one of the interactive events. “It really feels awesome because you get to explore new things and you get to learn.”

Madrid’s teacher, Yvette Garcia, said the funding has served as “a catalyst to improve just our basic STEM program.

“But as these kids get more excited about it, the teachers get more excited about it, and the program grows exponentially,” Garcia added.

With an expected U.S. shortage of qualified high school and college graduates to fill jobs in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Marathon Petroleum awarded these grants to YISD schools to increase access to high-quality STEM educational resources and instruction that position students for professional and academic success in these fast-growing fields.

Below is a list of new equipment purchased with Marathon Petroleum grants:

Ascarate Elementary School: Lego Mindstorm robots and STEM equipment;

Ramona Elementary School: 3D printers and STEM training for teachers;

Camino Real Middle School (now Del Valle Middle School): laptop computers for FIRST Lego League competition and Sphero robots;

Del Valle High School: state-of-the-art Laser Cutter; and

Riverside High School: heavy duty 3D Printer.

Marathon Petroleum – formerly known as Andeavor – operates the nation’s largest refining system, which includes a refinery just a few miles east of downtown El Paso. One of its core principles is corporate citizenship, which officials describe as working to make a positive difference in the communities where they operate.