KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) —  UCOR has awarded mini-grants, totaling $30,000 for STEM education activities in nine East Tennessee counties.

These grants are meant to help teachers heighten students’ awareness and interest in science, technology, education, and math. Since 2021, UCOR has awarded close to $230,000 in mini-grants to local schools.

This year, grants were awarded for 40 projects. In March, UCOR accepted applications from teachers then a team of UCOR professionals reviewed the anonymous submissions before making grant awards.

(Photo via UCOR) Oneida Owl Pellet Investigation

“I want to get my students interested in STEM at an early age and to learn how to design, build, test, and improve their designs. […] This building, testing, and design modifying will take place through teamwork, a skill I feel is very valuable for success in the real world.”

Award recipient Donna Tompkins

Tompkins is a 4th-grade science teacher at Oneida Elementary School and also has an after-school STEM club for 4th and 5th-grade students. In her “May the Force be With You” project, her students will build and modify sail cars for the best speed and distance by experimenting with different types of sails and wheels.

Saran Maness, a special education teacher at Horace Maynard Middle School, said that the mini-grant will help her achieve her goal to provide her 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students access to STEM materials that fit their needs and abilities.

“My goal is to get them interested in new opportunities, focus on teamwork, and experience open-ended exploration,” she said. “Our STEM for ALL program will create the space with the appropriate materials to allow everyone to explore STEM and open their eyes to future endeavors.”

(Photo via UCOR) First Robotics League at Jefferson Middle School

“Our STEM mini-grants program supports one of our primary community commitment focus areas, which is education and workforce development. This program spans the East Tennessee region and is an important way we support the communities in which we live and work, where the majority of our employee’s children and grandchildren grow up.”

UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter said

UCOR, an Amentum-led partnership with Jacobs, is the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s lead environmental cleanup partner. Learn more about the company at

Here is a complete list of winners by county:

Anderson County
  • Ligia Boundy, Clinton Middle School, Math Learning with IXL
  • Sue Byrd, with Sally Suttle, Grand Oaks Elementary School, No Child Left Inside
Blount County
  • Mark Anderson, Porter Elementary School, Panther STEM Lab
  • Jeff Coggin, with MSgt. Rob Davis, Heritage High School, AFJROTC Model Rocketry
  • Joel Jackson, with Misti Heath, Montvale Elementary School, Building Our Understanding of Forces and Motion
  • Renee Powell, Lanier Elementary School, Elementary Coding and Robotics, Break the Cycle
  • Shane Rewis, Heritage High School, Vernier Products
  • Cassie Williams, Porter Elementary School, STEM: Launching Student Leaders
Campbell County
  • Angie Baird, White Oak Elementary School, Full “STEAM” AHEAD
  • Tiffany Logsdon, Wynn Habersham Elementary, Classroom Environment – Fostering Creativity and Collaboration
Knox County
  • Jami Aylor, Bearden High School, The Functions of Management with Legos
  • Timothy Cathcart, Bearden High School, Smart Home System
  • Timothy Cathcart, with student Kevin Bridges, Bearden High School, Battery Backups
  • Fran Julien, Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, The Science Behind a Coffee Shop
  • Katie Lusk, Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, Kindergarten Kreates – Makerspace
  • Miriam Esther Wilhelm, Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, STEAM Out Hunger
Loudon County
  • Stefanie Crawford, North Middle School, The Physics of Archery
Maryville City Schools
  • Andrew Hebert, Maryville Junior High School, VEX V5
Morgan County
  • Margie Branstetter, Petros Joyner School, Float It, Sink It!
  •  Molly Carroll, with Kim Neskaug and Dr. Rachael Rudnitzki Peery, Central Elementary School, Adventures in Coding
  •  Kelli Harvey, with Melissa Poland, Petros Joyner Elementary School, Gardening 101
  •  Lisa Hooks, Central Middle School, Closing the Gap
  • Amy Jones, Sunbright Middle School, Engineering with STEM
  • Erin Miller, Oakdale School, BioBlitz
  • Susanne Pemberton, Coalfield School, Ozobots to Develop Computational Thinking
  • Melissa Poland, Petros Joyner School, Let’s Put Our Learning in Motion!
Oak Ridge City School
  • Lisa Buckner, Linden Elementary School, Forging Ahead with Making and a Glowforge
Oneida Special School District
  •  Donna Tompkins, Oneida Elementary School, May the Force Be with You
  • Gretchen Stephens, Oneida Middle School, Green & Clean
Roane County
  • Pete Goepfert, Midtown Education Center, RCS Solar Racers
  • Taylor Griffith, Bowers Elementary School, Building Success
  • Katie McKee, with Kevin Clinton, Midway Middle School, Problem Solving and Persistence – Coding with Cubelets
  •  Amy Haney, Oliver Springs High School, Micro: Bit Robotics
  • April Plemons, Calvary Baptist School, Biology Science Fair
  • Sarah Rose, Kingston Elementary School, Collaborative Technology Center
Scott County
  • Michelle Massengale, with Anita Harness, Fairview Elementary School, Growing Young Einsteins
  • Joy Perry, Huntsville Middle School, 5 For 5
Union County
  •  Aileen Beeler, with Hayley Sexton, Kaitlin Suffridge, and Matthew Edwards, Union County High School, Time and the Elements
  • Paula Deaver, Horace Maynard Middle School, All Things Small
  • Sarah Maness, Horace Maynard Middle School, STEM for ALL