College of Education; Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access; Student Affairs

Clemson launching new initiative to bring the power of STEM to SC schools

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Through a new partnership with STEM Global Action, Clemson University’s Division of Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access, will launch the STEM South Carolina (STEM SC) initiative as part of the University’s mission to enhance educational access to all students for success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

One of the core initiatives of Clemson University’s strategic plan, Clemson Elevate, is to transform lives by community outreach that enhances educational and economic opportunities for South Carolinians. The University has a long history of bringing young people to the Clemson campus to experience the magic of higher education and inspire them to follow their dreams. This program will reverse the process and bring the power of higher education to schools and communities throughout South Carolina.

STEM SC will be a genuine team effort with collaborators including industry partners, Cooperative Extension, College leadership and community leaders.

“The opportunity for Clemson University to partner with STEM Global Action in this new initiative drives directly to the heart of Clemson’s mission and its strategic plan,” said Felicia Benton-Johnson, Clemson University vice president for diversity and inclusive excellence. “As we continue to evolve and develop the Division of Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access, we will continue to explore opportunities to engage audiences around the State of South Carolina.”

The mission of STEM SC will be to offer high-quality, out-of-school-time programs that engage students in hands-on, project-based STEM learning. Students connect their knowledge to the real world during each module by building something related to a theme that will excite and inspire them. Catapults, rocket launchers, circuits, motorboats, robots and mini steam engines are a few of the cool projects on the list.

Amber Lange, assistant vice president for strategic connections in CEBA, said the new program will take STEM to the young people of South Carolina early and often with two different kinds of events: three STEM Fests and six STEM Saturdays, which combined will serve 2,800 young people in grades 6-12.

During STEM Fest, young people and their families will participate in up to 40 different hands-on activities, performing experiments and designing and building products relevant to STEM industries. For example, students may build flotation devices, boats, and devices to channel, move, and capture energy from water to explore STEM industries and subjects related to water. Participants also explore science in new ways, experience technology in different applications, engage in engineering activities and embrace the fun in STEM-related activities. Collegiate and professional volunteers from across the community staff each station.

STEM Saturdays will be monthly citywide family, and community-based academic STEM learning events for students and parents to learn together. On a STEM Saturday, a community center, gym or school is transformed into a laboratory with 40 tables, which seat 150 to 200 students and approximately 75 college student and professional volunteers who work in STEM-related careers. Each table has a minimum of one College and one professional volunteer with a maximum of four students.

“Many students in our state need access to high-quality, culturally relevant STEM programming,” said Lange. “Funding from the state to support the economy through STEM-industry-focused initiatives was the perfect opportunity for us to launch this initiative.”

Sara Hanks, director of strategic initiatives within CEBA, said STEM SC will take the programming and education that’s made Clemson one of the top universities in the nation into the community to create a STEM ecosystem where schools, parents, stakeholders, universities and community organizations can be involved in talent development that creates a base of economic growth and opportunity for students.

“We see STEM SC as part of the talent pipeline that all the other Clemson programs are creating,” said Hanks. “It will be at the beginning of the line and directly connected to the students’ communities. It’s going to be a wonderful thing for South Carolina.”