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So, You Want to Apply for an NSF Grant?

Regular blog readers know that the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) is funded by an ATE (Advanced Technological Education) grant from the National Science Foundation. The ATE program recently hosted a webinar “Addressing STEM Workforce Needs in a Virtual World – How ATE Grants Can Help and Why You Should Apply” sharing strategies and best practices for submitting a grant proposal. You can download the slides here or watch the webinar here. Several ATE grant PIs – along with ATE Program Director Celeste Career – offered their insight into the grant submission process. If you have a great idea for how to help your students or energize your program, you should consider submitting a proposal. Engaging with the ATE community, which actively encourages collaboration and innovation, delivers immense benefits.

Here are highlights from that webinar:

* There are four ATE tracks:
• “Projects” (up to $600,000 for up to three years),
• “New to ATE” (up to $300,000 for up to three years),
• “Centers” (which varies in amount and length), and
• “Targeted Research” (up to $800,000 for up to three years).

* ATE grants can address any industry impacted by technology. In particular, the ATE program is interested in those jobs with emerging technology competencies. In other words, does that industry require new job skills that didn’t exist five years ago?

* The ATE’s mentoring programs work. While the proposal acceptance rate has recently increased from 17% to 30%, the big difference-maker seems to be mentoring. Proposals developed as a part of the mentor programs were accepted at a rate close to 70%. When creating your proposal, seek outside help to make sure not only your strategic thinking is aligned with the ATE, but also that you are avoiding needless paperwork errors. Talk to ATE program officers or seek advice from current ATE PIs. You may also want to consider learning more about MentorConnect, which mentors up to 20 colleges each year that have never received an NSF ATE grant or hasn’t had an ATE grant in the last seven years

* The presenters encouraged attendees to consider the “ATE Mindset” and positive impact of technology. For example, technology doesn’t add complications, it creates new opportunities. Technology doesn’t limit access, it offers new ways to work and learn.

* You need letters of support that are more than simple endorsements of your idea. The letters you submit from your industry or educational partners need to commit to a specific amount of time and resources to help your project.

* Be aware of other ATE grants covering your area of interest. Don’t reinvent the wheel. You can explore what has been funded through the NSF ATE program by going to NSF’s website and conducting an Advanced Awards Search . Enter 7412 in the “Element Code” to restrict the search to ATE projects and centers.

* Read the solicitation, then read it again. Be sure what you’re developing in your proposal and submitting to the NSF are what the NSF requested. Pay close attention to the details. Mentor-Connect has a resource library with sample proposals from prior solicitations to get a sense of what an NSF ATE grant looks like.

* Start early. The process takes longer than you might expect and you don’t want to be scrambling at the end of September.

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