STEM Hubs in Iowa Driving Student Interest in Technology Careers

An initiative in Iowa promoting student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is beginning to show successful results after its first three years.

According to Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, a review of the program by the STEM Advisory Council has found multiple positive outcomes, reports Dar Danielson for Radio Iowa.

“For example, students who participated in the first year of the STEM scale-up programs reported more interest in STEM topics as well as STEM careers,” Reynolds says. “A small gender gap between male and female participation in scale-up has been narrowed from year one to year two, and that’s meeting one of our main objectives.”

Formed last September, the Advisory Council is a collaboration of Iowa businesses, politicians and education leaders who hope to reinforce STEM education in students in order to better the future of Iowa youth and the state as a whole.

The review process approved six institutions of the 13 that applied to become STEM network hubs.  These strategically placed hubs will promote STEM learning for students, and encourage STEM careers.  They will work with local business leaders and politicians in an effort to fit local needs and resources.

Deemed critical for the state’s overall growth, STEM-related job openings are growing quickly and offer good pay.

“Iowa is fortunate to have some outstanding STEM education programs, but whether students have access right now depends largely on where they live,” said Reynolds, co-leader of the council. “The hubs will provide these opportunities more equitably around the state. STEM occupations are critical to Iowa’s economic competitiveness because of the direct ties to innovation, productivity and economic growth.”

Brandstad said more students need to become proficient in STEM education in order to keep top-paying industries in their state, writes Rod Boshart for The Sioux City Journal.

Science teacher Shelly Vanyo for Boone High School joined the governor to discuss her success with the program.

Vanyo reports that the program allowed her students to become engaged in a collaborative learning environment with more positive outcomes than she can count.

She says the students took quickly to the program. “My classroom flourished and became a busy, problem-solving collaborative environment, where many ideas were explored at one time,” Sanyo says. “There was not one right answer that was brought to the forefront. Every student offered their own idea and their own ways to solve the problems that we face as global citizens.”

Vanyo says the process was contagious. “Learning was truly student led. I found that I had students who were not even a part of my class who would walk by and give their time during a study hall or lunch period to join the learning that was going on in my classroom.”

According to the report, more than 3,000 classrooms and clubs, and more than 100,000 students, across the state are currently involved in STEM.