Last fall, Rockland manufacturers Lonza and FMC Biopolymer teamed up to offer educational grants for high school student projects. Five projects were selected to receive grants during the 2009-2010 school year. The results of the five projects were recently presented to the FMC Community Advisory Panel, the group responsible for making the grants.

One of the grants provided for the purchase of a fully integrated wireless weather station for use by students studying meteorology and related science subjects. The students will be able to use the data gathered as a preliminary step toward determining the feasibility of installing a wind turbine. In addition to providing the grant, FMC also gave the school a custom-fabricated mounting bracket.

Another grant paid for the design and construction of a multi-use trail behind Rockland District High School. The project will be led by students involved in the Rockland After-School Alliance. The wooded trail, which will be open to the community, will offer learning opportunities for biology and ecology students, physical education classes, and a wide range of activities such as GPS training and outdoor reflective writing and art classes.

Another grant allowed advanced placement biology students to visit the Foundation for Blood Research in Scarborough in order to, among other things, enhance their understanding of DNA molecular structure in a professional lab setting and apply it to research of human origins and early human migration patterns.

One of the grants was used to purchased a piece of specialized lighting equipment, a Vortex Dual Rotator, for use by drama students and any other student or community group that uses the theater at Rockland District High School.

The last grant helped pay for a field trip for horticulture students to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. The trip provided students the opportunity to observe first-hand and learn to identify the plants that they have studied in class.

The Mini-Grants program provided a great opportunity for students to involve themselves in interesting projects not otherwise in the school budget. Dave Allen, a member of the panel and high school teacher, stressed the value of the grants at this time. “We had to cut our science department budget to the bone,” Allen said. “These grants have been a really great help.”

Dan Bookham, executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce, also acknowledged the good community service being done by two local businesses.

Lonza and FMC Biopolymer already have plans to repeat the program. “We’re looking forward to getting more applications and supporting more projects next year,” said Lonza Senior Manufacturing Engineer Matt Calderwood.