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With the long-term goal of getting more middle school students involved in STEM, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation sponsored the Christopher Columbus Awards, a national competition that combined STEM with community problem solving in a real-world setting. The program guided students through identifying problems in their communities, working in teams to create viable solutions, presenting their plans in competition and finally putting their award-winning plans to work with grants and prizes.

MMS was selected by the Columbus Fellowship Foundation to help create the Christopher Columbus Awards in 1997 and managed the award program until its final competition in 2014. Working with a group of leading U.S. foundations, MMS managed all marketing and implementation and was responsible for generating participation and enrollment in the program.

What we did.
  • Established the competition guidelines, framework and Awards Guidebooks for coaches and students, all aligned with the National Science Education Standards.
  • Managed the processing of competition entries, was instrumental in securing qualified professionals to act as judges, oversaw the distribution of semifinalist and finalist team prizes, and assisted finalist teams prep for in-person judging during National Championship Week.
  • Developed a national marketing and communication strategy and supporting materials, including direct mail brochures, emails, advertisements and press announcements.
  • Implemented and managed the day-to-day education marketing and awareness campaigns, such as targeted email campaigns and digital ads, local and national media outreach for the top three winning teams, and the Columbus Foundation Community Grant winner.
  • Coordinated logistics for the National Championship Week recognition event, distributed prizes to the top three winning teams and managed the year-long grant implementation for the Columbus Foundation Community Grant winning team.
  • Grew the program from an initial 600 participants in the first year to 3,000 participants per year.
  • Helped the fifteen grantee teams implement their ideas into their communities with five teams earning a U.S. Patent for their ideas and three teams earning provisional US Patents.
  • Hosted eight teams at each annual National Championship Event, facilitating sessions to support students with teamwork, problem-solving skills and public speaking.
  • Assisted sponsors in meeting their goals of reaching underserved populations. The program achieved and maintained:
    • 30% participation rate among urban and lower-income students.
    • 30% participation rate among minority students.
    • 60% female participation rate.

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