What is the purpose of the STEMconnector?
The purpose of the STEMConnector™ Project is to transform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the nation by encouraging collaboration and identifying and profiling key stakeholder groups in all areas of STEM education. The STEMConnector ™ Project is a free resource that will house more than 3,000 entities and their STEM education initiatives. This project aims to bridge the gap between STEM organizations and increase communication and collaboration in the STEM community, filling the need for a reliable and resourceful network of likeminded organizations that are working to build the talent in STEM fields. The Project especially focuses on increasing communication among programs that work to advance minorities and women in STEM.
Who benefits from the STEMconnector™ Project?
Our site, STEMConnector.org™ serves as a critical network to link those advocating STEM education across disciplines and distances. Launching the website November 2011, this site will highlight who is doing what in STEM, connecting key players to discover partners within STEM education across the country.
STEMConnector.org™ provides a way for those running STEM education systems—program directors, government agencies, K-20 providers, industry partners, etc.—to connect their ideas to improve STEM education on the national and international scale. We have completed half of the 3000 profiles of key players and divided them into 10 primary categories. At the State level, we have a compilation of key players in STEM, known as “State Connectors.”
What is new and innovative about the STEMconnector™?
There is no other comprehensive STEM initiative database in the United States or globally. Many other smaller datasets are available, but they are designed to serve smaller, specific audiences. The STEMConnector™ Project is dedicated to improving STEM Education by identifying, profiling, connecting, and supporting current organizational initiatives and programs. While high-quality STEM programming is available across the country, few of these projects understand their role within the national, state, and regional STEM infrastructure. Multiple outcome measures are used, which makes assessing projects difficult. This comprehensive overview of all sectors invested and involved in STEM will open opportunities for underserved students. We work to ensure that the most significant issues at hand are not left behind amidst educational jargon and policy; success comes through changes in behavior, not branding.
What are the primary activities of STEMconnector.org™ as a website?
Currently, our primary activities span across four fields: organizational profiles, state outreach and data compilation, social media, and partnerships.
Profiles: As of January 2012, we have profiled over 3500 organizations and will continue to grow our database daily. STEMconnector.org™ will establish key criteria for nine major categories:
- Professional Organizations
- State-based Organizations
- Diversity in STEM
- Women in STEM
- Federal Government
- National Organizations.
The States: We have an extensive state outreach campaign led by TIES and Innovate+Educate and an extensive state data compilation effort led by ASTRA.
- State Connectors: STEMConnector.org™’s “State Connectors” are currently being compiled through an RFE (Request for Engagement) process, headed by Innovate+Educate and TIES. Five to ten key STEM Education organizations within each state have been contacted; these organizations are subsequently disseminating the questionnaire to all major STEM Education initiatives in each respective state. The National Girls Collaborative Project provided the foundation for the RFE content and will serve as a consultant and collaborator in forming the categorical criteria and network mapping design.
- State Data Sheets. ASTRA has partnered with the STEMConnector™ Project and is in the process of creating state-by-state data aggregation and analysis documents. ASTRA’s extensive data analysis and data compilation over the past decade regarding STEM R&D and STEM education is critical in understanding the complexities of STEM education within the U.S. These existing initiatives, as well as our organizational profiles are a crucial element for the initial launch of STEMConnector.org™.
Social Media: Our Web 2.0 Platforms have been incredibly helpful in connecting STEM organizations across disciplines and distances. Thank you for reading our blog, and please continue to check this site for new posts and updates! Follow along on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and add us to your circles on Google +!
Partnerships: The STEMConnector ™ Project has over 100 for-profit and non-profit partners combined. These partners have been critical in compiling and reviewing the profiles we currently have, and will continue to be crucial throughout the remainder of that process. Check out our sponsors at the bottom of our homepage.
How do you plan to strengthen and grow over the next few years?
The STEMConnector ™ Project will strengthen by building credibility and visibility in the community. Throughout each stage of site construction, we will solicit feedback from every organization we profile. This feedback will focus not only on the content of the profiles, but also on the layout and content of the site as a whole. We will also set up channels for new organizations to submit their own profiles, events, or news postings. Through community outreach programming, such as the conferences and conference calls, we will build our profile in the STEM community. This stream of constant feedback and outreach will solidify our place in the community as a reliable resource for all STEM-related organizations. Since we aim to connect and inform, interaction with various players in the STEM community can only strengthen our project over time.
As a hub for connecting organizations to each other across counties, states, and regions, The STEMConnector™ Project can offer other STEM programs mentoring, networking, information, and innovation services. We profile organizations, connect existing databases, and develop new partnerships within the community. These partnerships and new alignments create a centralized base for what exists, reducing the number of duplicative resources in STEM education. We ultimately hope that this website will act as a dynamic system; parents, teachers, and students will be able to comment on programs, while administrators will gain this feedback, as well as an understanding of organizations’ roles within the educational community.
We will also continue to expand via the facilitation of real-world connections. Through a series of in-person events, we will unite players in the community to trade information and build new partnerships. The first of these meetings, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor focusing on Women in STEM, is already planned for fall 2011. Part of these meetings will involve feedback on sector-specific content, allowing members of the community to discuss the assessment system and suggest changes or improvements. STEMConnector™ will also expand the number of organizations profiled in the database through community response, organizational partnerships, and further research. Lastly, we aim to draw from existing pools of data to maintain and improve our aggregate information system.
Given the vast scope of the project, how do you plan to overcome potential barriers?
Given the broad scope of the STEMConnector™ Project, we anticipate revisions and phases of progress. Since STEMConnector.org™ is a vast resource of more than 3000 organizations and programs, it will be necessary to categorize the data so it is manageable and accessible to our audience. For example, managing the networks by their reach (local, state, or national level) will be helpful. The details of the STEM profile content will also need to be carefully thought out, such as choosing the appropriate criteria for the content of each category. We anticipate revisions in our profile classification system, particularly in defining the criteria and content of the ten primary categories. The focus, scope, and capacity of a local organization versus a corporation are clearly different. While a think tank may regularly blog about STEM education issues, a corporation is likely to affect STEM Ed through different factors. Each category needs to have separate variables that comprise the profile and role on the site to accurately contextualize network influence.
We will plan to implement a quality control measure for data used on STEMconnector.org ™. Since the site will aggregate data from different sources, it is may be necessary to evaluate the methodology of data collection to ensure that it suits our purposes. Standardization of data from different sources may be required for appropriate data analysis and visualization. We believe this will be on ongoing process, and plan to continuously manage and update these aspects of the project.
Who are your partners? Will you continue to expand your partnerships?
The success of the STEMConnector™ Project is dependent upon partnerships and collaboration. Learn more on our Partners and Sponsors page
As our project continues to grow, we hope to expand our partnerships in order to be inclusive of all STEM stakeholders. Through collaboration and networking, we seek to encourage communication and networking in order to increase the number of opportunities available to those who are often marginalized in STEM education – minorities and women. We believe this effort will facilitate quality over quantity, helping to consolidate existing efforts that overlap, ultimately channeling money to those who need it most, particularly underserved and low-income youth.
Partners are truly the key element throughout this project. Our network is expansive and continues to grow at a rapid pace.
The success of STEMconnector.org derives from both virtual and real-world connections at the national, state, and regional level.