Lessons from the latest STEMx Challenge Grants STEM

Idaho: New strategic plan and regional hubs planned to improve STEM access nationwide

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Project plan:

Given the projections that the number of STEM jobs in Idaho will increase by 26 percent by 2024, the STEM Action Center in Idaho is to be expanded into a fully-fledged statewide STEM ecosystem. The Idaho STEM Action Center will bring partners together and formalize a state STEM network with shared visions, tasks and goals. This new strategic plan will include a number of regional STEM hubs.

The project is led by the Idaho STEM Action Center, a government agency under the governor’s executive office.


To lay the foundation for their STEM ecosystem, Idaho sat down with key stakeholders. In this meeting, the team identified 5 main priorities and divided them into groups for each priority. These groups have continued to meet to this day.

The Action Center also reports that membership of the STEMx network combines these efforts with additional resources, guidance, and connections.

Persistent challenges include regional hubs that include cohesive and well-defined infrastructure components such as funding sources, strategic planning expectations, and data reporting methods. The action center is planning a follow-up meeting in September 2020.

Indiana: Community sessions culminate in state meetings on rural STEM education

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The Indiana STEM Ecosystem will host a STEM Ecosystem Convening in Spring 2020, bringing together businesses, PK-12 education, and extracurricular programs. Participants will identify key local challenges for building STEM partnerships to reach students in rural communities. The schedule for the call includes open sessions in Indianapolis, northern Indiana, and southern Indiana.

The Indiana STEM ecosystem was founded in 2006 by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Eli Lilly and Company, Lilly Endowment and Purdue University as an I-STEM network. For this grant, the Indiana STEM Ecosystem will partner with the Indiana Afterschool Network, Purdue University’s ISTEM Resource Network, and Rolls Royce Corporation.


With the STEMx funding, Indiana developed new ideas to create greater equity and access to STEM opportunities in rural communities. The top next priorities are: A STEM needs assessment, a digital asset mapping tool, a STEM digital hub, and support for local ecosystems.

This work will help even the most rural areas of Indiana identify challenges and solutions while working on the full development of a local / regional STEM ecosystem.

North Carolina: The Seven Counties Rural Region will select and deliver three key actions to expand rural STEM education

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STEM West rallied the region with seven counties in rural west NC around the STEM training. On January 30th, a full day event was held at Isothermal Community College in Spindale in western North Carolina. Local STEM programs were highlighted and programming gaps identified. Participants identified three key future action points. Following the event, the briefings will begin to push the completion of these three action points in time to report back to STEMx in June.

STEM West is a nonprofit at the Catawba County Schools and is supported by the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMT) center in Durham, North Carolina.


STEM West Hub in North Carolina successfully hosted a meeting representing all seven school systems, multiple universities, community colleges, nonprofits, corporations, and foundations in the area.

The network has been strengthened through a new partnership and grant writing partners have been established with local science museums.

The meeting agendas and presentations are shared on North Carolina’s report.

South Carolina: Local Feedback Session and New Rural STEM Efforts

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The South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics & Science hosted a localized feedback session that focused on rural STEM education and focused on community engagement. Building on the coalition’s previous success with the Grand Challenges format, the session was interactive. It resulted in the creation of at least one rural STEM education to increase knowledge and maintain community support.

Through a previous STEMx Challenge Grant, the state identified five major challenges for STEM in South Carolina. This included raising awareness of MINT and involving more people in MINT advocacy. This follow-up funding will reinforce current efforts towards these goals.

South Carolina’s Maths and Science Coalition led the program.


A rural STEM meeting was held in South Carolina. A comprehensive preparation strategy included defining critical questions, selecting 175 key participants, and liaising with participants with key key information, including trends in STEM. The conference included: “Heatmaps” of existing rural MINT resources, deep dives in five “Grand Challenges”, and commitments for May.

South Carolina noted that in order to keep making profits, not just gaps, it is important for rural communities to learn about existing assets. The participants estimated that they were not portrayed or perceived as “not having” in the broader MINT ecosystem.

Virginia: As the Foundation State network grows, meetings are held in rural areas

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To ensure that the Virginia statewide STEM plan achieves its goal of improving equity and access to STEM education, leaders felt it was important to hear directly from members of the community. This Challenge Grant will give citizens a voice and role in developing this plan. With these grants, Virginia STEM coordinator Chuck English and Virginia Department of Education STEM director Dr. Tina Manglicmot, visiting five rural regions and holding meetings to give stakeholders the opportunity to learn about the development of the plan and add their perspectives. This would set up the communications network to drive future STEM developments in Virginia. Insights:

After a detailed review, Virginia held a series of meetings in rural communities. From these meetings, transportation emerged as the main obstacle. State MINT officials managed to visit five planned locations, but another six events were canceled as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, communication continued in virtual formats.

This work and other efforts have made further progress towards full publication implementation of nationwide Virginia STEM plan. Updates on this progress are linked in the full Virginia report.

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