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Dos Pueblos High’s Amir Abo-Shaeer Named a MacArthur Fellow

Engineering Academy director earns $500,000 award — with no strings attached

Amir Abo-Shaeer, director of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, says he had no idea he was being considered for a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. “I still can’t believe it,” he says. “I feel so fortunate and very humbled.”
Amir Abo-Shaeer, director of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, says he had no idea he was being considered for a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. “I still can’t believe it,” he says. “I feel so fortunate and very humbled.”  (MacArthur Foundation photo)

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher |

For the last nine years, Dos Pueblos High School teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer has been changing the lives of students — especially those at the renowned Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy he leads. Earlier this month, he received news that will change his.

Late Monday, the MacArthur Foundation announced that Abo-Shaeer, 38, has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, one of 23 recipients of a $500,000 stipend from the foundation. The award will be paid out in quarterly installments over a five-year period — with no strings attached.

“Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential,” the MacArthur Foundation said in a statement.

“The purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.”

Abo-Shaeer said he was stunned to receive the phone call almost two weeks ago informing him of the fellowship.

“It all seemed so surreal, especially because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone for such a long period of time,” he said in a statement issued by the engineering academy.

“I still can’t believe it. I feel so fortunate and very humbled.”

Abo-Shaeer said he had no idea he was being considered for the fellowship. In fact, there’s no way to even apply. The MacArthur Foundation only considers nominations from a “constantly changing pool of invited external nominators.” In lay terms, that means applications and unsolicited nominations are not accepted.

Abo-Shaeer has been a force on the Dos Pueblos High campus since his arrival in 2001 after a short career as a research and development mechanical engineer. The physics and engineering teacher has developed courses around project-based learning, including a robotics class that has earned worldwide recognition for its annual — and successful — participation in the international FIRST Robotics Competition. His outreach efforts have yielded 50 percent female student enrollment in his program, an unusually high accomplishment in the field of engineering.

In 2007, Abo-Shaeer earned a $3 million California matching grant to create a new facility at Dos Pueblos High, 7266 Alameda Ave. Working with a small group of mostly parent volunteers, he established the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation to manage the $3 million capital campaign to match the state grant and to raise additional program funding.

Construction began on the 12,000-square-foot Elings Center for Engineering Education in July and the facility is expected to be completed next summer. The new facility will enable the academy to triple its enrollment and significantly broaden the educational opportunities available to students.

Abo-Shaeer is the subject of a new book, The New Cool, written by Neal Bascomb. The book is to be released in March.

Click here to meet the MacArthur Foundation’s Class of 2010.

Click here for more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. Click here to make a donation to the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 09.28.10 @ 12:42 PM

Awesome.  I do not know Mr. Abo-Shaeer, but I have admired him and his efforts from afar for years.  It is great to see such a stellar contributor to our community rewarded for his efforts.  Congratulations to Mr. Abo-Shaeer and to all those students fortunate enough to come within his sphere of influence.

» on 09.28.10 @ 12:45 PM

Fantastic news!  Amir is a star and deserves this amazing award!  And, kudos to the many parents who have volunteered thousands of hours to the academy program.  Congratulations to all of you!

» on 09.29.10 @ 12:23 PM

A heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Abo-Shaeer!  My wife and I have known Amir for many years and have whole-heartedly supported his endeavors.  He is an exemplary example of selfless service to education, caring more about the kids education than the status quo education establishment.  He deserves all of the recognition he gets.  There should be no doubt as to why Mr. Shaeer gets the support he does from students and parents alike.

» on 09.30.10 @ 01:20 PM

This is awesome! What a great program!  First step accomplished by getting 50% females involved. Next step, getting more hispanics involved so the district doesn’t shut down the program as it has threatened to do. Hopefully some of this money goes towards this goal.

» on 10.01.10 @ 11:53 AM

Why would the school district shut down such a successful program?  Because of diversity issues?  Diversity is becoming an evil word, not the shining light that it started out to be.  Imagine, killing academic excellence because it’s not diverse enough.  Students, parents, and community leaders need to be watching this situation very closely to ensure that the education establishment doesn’t lose sight of what’s important to us, and what should be important to them.  Success!

» on 10.04.10 @ 12:32 AM

I hear it’s pretty much white and asian kids from educated, well-to-do families.  The expansion is supposed to make the engineering academy available to the general population.

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