The ‘grit lady’ wins a ‘genius’ grant

Angela Duckworth, known as “the grit lady,” has won a MacArthur “genius” grant worth $625,000. A Penn researcher, Duckworth says “grit” and self-control are strong predictors of success — and they can be taught.duckworth 

As a math teacher, she noticed that her best students weren’t always the brightest, she tells NPR. She wondered why some kids try harder than others.

The “character skills” of self-control and of grit are teachable, Duckworth believes. She plans to spend the $625,000 grant to bring middle-school teachers to Penn to discuss how best to develop students’ grit and self-control. (She also plans to buy boots.)

Grittier individuals tend to be “slightly less talented,” says Duckworth. “If things come very easily for you, if you learn things very quickly, you know, maybe you don’t develop the ability to overcome setbacks, to sustain effort, etc.”

Physics teacher wins ‘genius’ prize

Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics and engineering teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, is a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, one of 23 recipients of a $500,000 “genius” prize, reports Noozhawk.

Once a mechanical engineer, Abo-Shaeer, 38, created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy to give students — half are female — hand-on learning opportunities in science and engineering. The academy’s robotics team is one of the best in the nation. (Click on the link and look at the team picture: I’ve never seen so many blonde girls at a robotics contest.)

With a $3 million state grant and help from parent volunteers, Abo-Shaeer created a foundation to raise matching funds for the construction of a new facility, Elings Center for Engineering Education, which will let the academy triple its enrollment. The capital campaign is about $500,000 short of its goal, but I hope Abo-Shaeer won’t use all the MacArthur money for that.

The New Cool, by Neal Bascomb, slated for March release, follows Abo-Shaeer and his robotics team as they work to prepare for the FIRST robotics competition.