$250,000 Gift Targets Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education


Onondaga Community College is the proud recipient of a $250,000 prize which will be used to expand awareness of and engagement in STEM fields among middle and high school students. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. As demand for workers skilled in STEM fields continues to rise, the number of students pursuing STEM degrees is dropping, according to a report released by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.

Dr. Nelson Ying of Orange County, Florida and Mary Eileen Wood, the 2012 Dr. Nelson Ying of Balquhain Baronial Award “Ying Prize” Recipient, joined Onondaga Community College Interim President Margaret M. “Meg” O’Connell and Onondaga Foundation Board Chair James F. Holland today to announce the new partnership agreement for the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair in support of STEM education. Mary Eileen Wood, a volunteer who has directed the Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair (Ying TRSEF) since 2006, was selected as the recipient of the $250,000 “genius” award by Dr. Nelson Ying in recognition of her passionate dedication and numerous contributions to increasing STEM educational opportunities for students in New York. Dr. Nelson Ying, a nuclear physicist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who sponsors a number of science fairs in Florida, became the Ying TRSEF’s naming sponsor in 2009. Onondaga first served as the host site for the fair in 2010. The Ying Prize of $250,000 will be divided two ways; $50,000 will fund the science and engineering fair and its expansion, while $200,000 will build an endowment within the OCC Foundation to support STEM related activities and the creation of the Dr. Nelson Ying Directorship for STEM Initiatives at Onondaga.

Approximately 1,100 students are enrolled in STEM programs at Onondaga. The Ying TRSEF provides 300,000 middle and high school students in approximately 300 school districts in 24 counties in New York State with the opportunity to participate in an internationally affiliated science fair. “We are very fortunate that volunteer organizations like the Ying TRSEF are as passionate about STEM education as we are, and that they are engaged in such outstanding work on behalf of students throughout the region,” said O’Connell.

The Ying TRSEF serves "orphaned counties" of Upstate NY which until 2006 had no regional access to the International Science and Engineering Fair, founded in 1950: Sullivan, Delaware, Broome, Tioga, Tompkins, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Otsego, Herkimer, Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex. “The gift you’ve given to the Onondaga Community College Foundation will be felt for years and years as those students grow and as they conquer the world,” said Holland.

Using “Fair Weekend” as the catalyst, Ying TRSEF captures the passion and imagination of children and connects them with adults eager to pass on their knowledge. 

“When you stand and see the faces of middle and high school students talking about their learning, their idea, their research, their conclusions, and what they’re going to do next year, you will realize the life changing difference you have made. Thank you so much for this belief in our work,” said Wood. 

Dr. Ying added, “I watched the good work she’s been doing and I’m very proud of it. The more I watch the more pleased with her work, the kind of benefit it brings to the world. And I too dream her dream, I share her vision, I can see the long term benefit that her work can bring to this world, not only to this community but through the students and their future inventions.” 

More information on the Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair is available at www.trsef.org.