Left to right: Matt Rightmire of Borealis Ventures and EFNH, Greg DeFrancis of the Montshire Museum, Jenny Williams of Norwich Partners and EFNH, Jamie Coughlin of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network and EFNH. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Left to right: Matt Rightmire of Borealis Ventures and EFNH, Greg DeFrancis of the Montshire Museum, Jenny Williams of Norwich Partners and EFNH, Jamie Coughlin of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network and EFNH. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

To inspire young engineers

Montshire Museum wins $25k AMP Award from Entrepreneurs' Fund to expand reach of STEM "tinkering kits" program

For a child to get excited about engineering, she needs to do engineering. With her own hands.

The Montshire Museum of Science has been awarded a $25,000 AMP grant from the Entrepreneurs’ Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to put engineering tools in the hands of children in schools across New Hampshire and Vermont.

The grant was awarded during the Upper Valley AMP NH Award Competition at the DEN Innovation Center in Hanover on May 5.

The Montshire has been sharing “Tinkering Kits,” for hands-on engineering projects with 40 schools. The grant provides the seed money to expand that pilot program.

“The ultimate goal is to get these into the hands of as many kids as possible in every school in New Hampshire and Vermont,” said Greg DeFrancis of the Montshire Museum. “There’s 15,000 fifth-grade students in New Hampshire, and I want every single one of them to have the opportunity to build a passion for science and engineering…It’s in STEM where these kids are going to get jobs in the future.”

 

"There’s 15,000 fifth-grade students in New Hampshire, and I want every single one of them to have the opportunity to build a passion for science' - Greg DeFrancis
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Five non-profit finalists made pitches to the EFNH membership. To prepare for the AMP NH Award Competition, finalists were paired with EFNH mentors, who worked one-on-one with nonprofits to help craft engaging and persuasive pitches for innovative projects that delivered an “amplified” benefit for communities. Finalists took part in an afternoon “pitch camp” prior to the final event to help put the finishing touches on their pitches.

“The experience was great,” DeFrancis said. “This is an opportunity for the Montshire to let everyone understand what we do…in as succinct a manner as possible.”

The Entrepreneurs’ Fund, an initiative of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, channels the expertise, energy and passion of the state’s leading entrepreneurs to strengthen New Hampshire communities through innovative philanthropy.

Matt Rightmire of Borealis Ventures is chair of EFNH and a pitch camp mentor.

“As mentors, we get more from interacting with these nonprofit leaders than they get from us,” Rightmire said.

The relationship gives EFNH members a deeper understanding of their communities and of the nonprofit sector and the vital role it plays in New Hampshire.

Joe Mullen is chair of Bottomline Technologies and serves on the EFNH advisory committee.

“It’s a different level of connection,” to give through EFNH, Mullen said. “It’s more direct. You learn about the great nonprofit activities there are out there, and what the need is…What they do is just incredible work.”

In addition to the Montshire, the five AMP Grant finalists were:

The Family Place, which provides services to children and families, shared a plan to implement a volunteer program to expand its sustainability.

The Friends of NH Drug Courts, which is working to enhance drug courts across New Hampshire.

Moore Center Services, which works to enhance the quality of life of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and brain injuries, is developing pilot programs to keep seniors in their homes and with their families.

Positive Tracks pitched an idea to launch the U23 Challenge pilot to engage youth and families in philanthropy through sports.

In addition to the $25,000 grant, each non-profit is also invited to ask for volunteer help from EFNH members. The Montshire Museum asked for help with setting up distance-learning and webinars for schools that will be using the tinkering kits. Others asked for help with board development, IT assistance, developing outcome measures for programs and spreading the word about services provided.

“When you start to work with nonprofits,” Mullen said, “there’s a tendency for you to want to get more involved.” For Mullen and his extended family, the EFNH AMP Award competitions have been the jumping-off point for further involvement – with everything from clothing drives to contributing to charity auctions.

“The partnership of entrepreneur and nonprofit may seem unusual at first,” said Lisa Ferneau, a member of the Charitable Foundation’s Upper Valley regional advisory board. “But when you dig deep the connections are obvious: start-ups and nonprofits both do a lot with very little. They dream big. They seek to make an impact. They bring together people with a shared purpose and passion. And they both work very, very hard to see their vision become a reality.”

This year marks the 6th annual AMP awards. Cross Roads House, an emergency homeless shelter in Portsmouth, was awarded a $25,000 AMP grant on April 28. The final AMP Grant Competition for 2016 will be held at Dyn in Manchester on May 12, where another $25,000 grant will be awarded. Those grants will bring the total that EFNH has awarded to $285,000 since 2011.