What began as a hunt for innovative excellence that routed through Kansas City's CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) and Brooklyn, New York's P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) in 2013 has become a bona fide movement custom-fitted to Iowa: STEM BEST® (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers).
The STEM Council launched the request for proposals in 2014 that asked three key things of applicants: (1) co-mingle educators and employers to design meaningful curriculum and projects (with appropriate professional development); (2) conduct collaborative learning in authentic physical spaces; and (3) match the Council's $25,000 investment.
Five Programs, all that applied, were awarded in 2014-15, bringing a total of $773,000 in cost sharing. Three more of eight applicants were awarded in 2015-16, bringing $630,000 in cost share. In 2016-17, ten more programs, some funded by private sector investors, were awarded (of 14 applicants) contributing $566,000 in cost sharing. For 2017-18 thanks to expanded Council financial support alongside generous contributors, nineteen new or expanded STEM BEST friends are up and running (of 31 applicants). They bring to the table 163 total employer partners and commit over $2 million in cost share. They will be doing things like bringing local business projects and career awareness to students in Alburnett's "Pirate Collaborative" and launching a middle school Gateways to Technology and a high school pre-apprenticeship program in construction in Atlantic. High school seniors in Chariton will get work-based learning alongside 9 business partners, and Newton students will work at The Incubator on business-provided projects. Middle schoolers at North Iowa will work on app design, smart homes and other technologies alongside business partner Next Generation Technology.
More about these and all 19 new programs may be found here. The operations team is grateful to many partners who helped to promote the application, including the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, as well as Regional STEM Advisory Board members and STEM Council members.