UofL expands INSPIRE program to include biology and sustainability curriculum

By Matt Willinger -

Members of the HDR Foundation and UofL representatives at an event to honor a $50,000 gift to the university's INSPIRE summer enrichment program.

The University of Louisville received a $50,000 gift to bolster a summer camp that helps high school students get involved in engineering.

The financial support comes from the HDR Foundation, made possible through a gift from the recently retired president of HDR’s global water program, Glen Ellmers and his wife, Cherie. The funds will be used to add a new biology and sustainability curriculum to the INSPIRE program. INSPIRE, an acronym for “Increasing Student Preparedness and Interest in the Requests for Engineering,” is a summer enrichment program dedicated to introducing engineering to students from historically underserved populations across Louisville area schools.

The curriculum expansion aims to enhance the experience for approximately 20 students who attend the week-long camp each summer, providing them with a broader understanding of STEM fields and fostering their interest in engineering, biology and sustainability.

INSPIRE’s core objectives include exposing students to various engineering subfields, engaging them in hands-on activities and facilitating local site visits with community partners. Additionally, the program assists students in identifying their strengths and prepares them for the college transition process.

“With HDR’s generous investment, the INSPIRE Program will see significant enhancements, providing a holistic educational experience to our participants,” said Dayna Touron, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “This investment not only supports the expansion of the curriculum but also enables us to offer a real-life, on-campus experience to the students during the INSPIRE Summer Camp.”

The proposed enhancements include Biology and Sustainability Days, where participants will delve into disciplines such as drip irrigation, water research, composting, creating headphones, slime cell graphs, 3D printing, laser cutting and biomedical engineering demonstrations using real organs.

The collaborative effort of UofL’s departments of Biology and Urban and Public Affairs and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering will produce two immersive days designed to combine interactive classroom learning with hands-on experiential activities. This innovative approach aims to bridge the gap between traditional academic disciplines, providing students with a holistic understanding of how biology and sustainability intersect with engineering issues.

The INSPIRE program will also introduce a residential aspect, allowing students to stay in a residence hall on UofL’s campus for the entire week of the camp. This immersive experience aims to familiarize students with college life and ignite excitement about pursuing degrees in STEM fields like engineering or biology.

“We believe that this investment will not only impact the participating students but also contribute to the broader goals of diversity and inclusion in STEM education,” added Kyle Guthrie, vice president and HDR’s Area Manager for Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. “We look forward to witnessing the success stories that will emerge from the INSPIRE Program and its expanded curriculum.”

Source: UofL expands INSPIRE program to include biology and sustainability curriculum (UofL News, Feb. 19, 2024)