Providing STEM Education
with a Sustainable Outlook

Dr. Tanya Dvorak, STEM Outreach Education Coordinator, Principal Extension Specialist in Biosystems Engineering at the University of Kentucky, and member of KGSC’s Leadership Team, was recently awarded a $1,600 “Mini-Grant” by Kentucky NSF EPSCoR to fund her project, Providing STEM Education with a Sustainable Outlook to Youth.

“Biotechnology is one STEM field that is ever growing and changing to help advance innovations for life. The science behind plant lignin biotechnology is important for addressing future uses of an otherwise wasted natural resource.”


 Dr. Dvorak’s project will provide new STEM education opportunities to K-12 students and aims to enhance awareness and knowledge of lignin, bioplastics, engineering, 3D printing and sustainability.

With the help of the KY NSF EPSCoR Mini-Grant, Dr. Dvorak will facilitate the creation and delivery of mini-lessons and demonstrations on polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic filaments and 3D-printing accessible to a wide range of K-12 students; and host an in-depth high school STEM camp in July 2020 on sustainability, 3D-printing, and engineering at the University of Kentucky.


 Dr. Dvorak hopes this project will increase the awareness and knowledge of students in the areas of lignin, bioplastics, engineering, 3D printing, and sustainability, particularly through her choice of 3D printing materials. “Plant-derived PLA bioplastic is an environmentally friendly and biodegradable compound compared to petroleum-based plastics. Switching from fossil based material to a more sustainable alternative will reduce greenhouse gas emission.”


Tanya Ext pic psd


The National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program in Kentucky, KY NSF EPSCoR, operates under Cooperative Agreement No. 1849213, Advancing Kentucky’s Manufacturing Partnerships in Enhanced Robotics and Structures. KY NSF EPSCoR Annual Awards Program, including Mini-Grants, supports scientists, educators, and companies across the commonwealth. Learn more at


KGSC was partially sponsored by KY NSF EPSCoR under Cooperative Agreement No. 1355438, 2014-2019.