STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. If you haven't heard the term yet, you soon will — U.S. K-12 students and college graduates are rapidly falling behind their international peers in these technical subjects, and experts are worried about what this means for the future of the U.S. economy.
As our nation's STEM academic performance declines, the demand for STEM-savvy professionals is on the rise. According to Change the Equation, an education nonprofit, the amount of STEM positions will grow by 17 percent before 2018. Annual earnings for professionals in these fields is also much higher than for professionals in other fields. STEM bachelor's degree holders earn 23 percent more than non-STEM graduates. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM bachelor's degree holders make an average of $35.81 an hour, about $7.54 more than non-STEM bachelor's degree holders.
The first section of this guide can serve as a resource to K-12 students and their parents. The listings identify some great resources for younger students that wish to explore STEM ideas in after school programs, camps, and during college prep efforts. The second portion of this guide addresses resources for prospective and current college students. STEM honors societies, mentorships, and internship programs can help college students graduate with success and prepare for STEM-related careers.
I. STEM Resources for K-12 Students
According to a study conducted by Microsoft, only one in five college students felt like their K-12 education adequately prepared them for university STEM courses. This lack of academic exposure has dire consequences on college graduation rates — according to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, less than 40 percent of those who intend to major in a STEM field actually do so.
K-12 student performance in the U.S. continues to fall behind, as countries like China, Finland, Japan, and New Zealand take the lead in scientific performance. In fact, U.S. teens ranked 23rd in science in 2011, according to a study conducted by the National Academies, a nonprofit dedicated to science, engineering, and medical research. Worse yet, U.S. teens ranked 31st in the world for mathematics, with China, Finland, Lichtenstein, Canada, and Japan taking the lead. We can infer that on a global basis, U.S. teens probably don't have what it takes to keep up with STEM college programs.
Another issue that is holding our STEM progress back is a lack of qualified teachers. National Academies also found that less than 66 percent of middle school teachers are qualified to lead mathematics classes. Only 10 percent of physical science teachers hold a certificate or degree in the topics they are teaching. A lack of teachers proficient and passionate about STEM fields can translate to plummeting student scores. The federal government has increased funding for STEM training initiatives.
Parents can seek out supplementary learning materials, as U.S. students continue to struggle with receiving STEM foundations at school. Dedicated STEM high schools, after school programs, summer camps, clubs, and college prep materials can help your child feel confident majoring in a STEM field in college.
Policymakers, school administrators, and educators are directing their attention to STEM initiative schools. The Council of Chief State School Officers revealed that math and science high school graduation credit requirements have actually doubled between 1989 and 2006, in an effort to help students feel more comfortable with these subjects. The U.S. Department of Education plans to invest $150 million into STEM Innovation Networks, dedicated to the training of STEM educators and the development of cutting edge STEM learning materials.
After School Programs
Non-profit organizations such as Afterschool Alliance are working to bring STEM curricula to after school programs. This non-profit offers two $10,000 rewards to after school programs that focus on STEM topics such as computing or engineering. Afterschool Alliance hosts a policy and funding database, so that parents and students can discover which resources are available in their home state.
Parents seeking additional information about STEM after school programs can also find information at the following websites:
- Statewide After school Networks: STEM
- The Power of Discovery
- U.S. News and World Report: Opportunities in After school Programs Abound for STEM Education
- The Coalition for Science After School
- Change the Equation
There are a number of STEM specific summer camps available across the United States. Generally, these summer camps are hosted by local colleges and scientific museums, so check your local listings for summer events at these venues. Larger organizations such as Microsoft and Girl Scouts, will host these events in multiple cities worldwide, and they often post details about event registration online. The following links can give you an idea of the types of STEM summer camps available to K-12 students.
STEM Camps for Girls
- Go STEM! hosted by the University of Southern Indiana
- Digigirlz hosted by Microsoft across the U.S in states like Utah, North Dakota, Washington, California, and Texas. Students can also enroll in international camp sessions in Nairobi, Tunisia, and Madrid.
- TechBridge summer camp sessions are hosted in collaboration with Girl Scouts nationwide.
- Girl Scouts Girls in STEM incorporates STEM curricula into their national badge programs, encouraging female-led scientific learning and proficiency.
Elementary Student STEM Camps
- STEM for Kids, hosted in multiple locations across North Carolina.
- epiSTEMic, based at the Montclair State University.
- Carnegie Science Center Summer Camp, a week long camp in Pennsylvania.
- Keepers, an engineering camp located at the University of New Hampshire.
Junior High STEM Camps
- Green Energy hosted by Northern Illinois University
- Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted in 19 cities across the U.S.
- Marine and Environmental Science Summer Camp at the Florida Institute of Technology
- Summer Youth Programs hosted at Michigan Technological University
High School STEM Camps and Internships
- STEM Camp at Pace University in New York City
- GoSTEM provided by Georgia Tech
- Prairie Research Institute Science Camp at the University of Illinois
- Summer High School Internship Program organized by the Sonoma County Office of Education and Sonoma State University in California.
- Consumer Chemistry Camp at Alfred University in New York.
- Chemistry Camp hosted at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Chemistry and Forensics Youth Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
- Chem Camp hosted at Hope College in Michigan.
Computer Science Camps
- Computer Science Camps hosted by the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington
- App building and physical computing camps at the University of Washington.
- Hi-Tech Summer Camp hosted by IMACS, an independent teaching organization, in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and Connecticut.
- Web technology, app development, and computer gaming camps at Wayne State University in Michigan.
- Summer Computer Camps at the University of Alabama.
- Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science coordinated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- iEngineer hosted by the University of Maryland
- Exploring Your Options at the University of Illinois
- Summer Engineering Programs at the North Campus of North Carolina State University
- Engineering Innovation at John Hopkins University in Maryland
Geo Sciences Camps
- GeoX at Texas A&M University
- Earth Sciences High School Internship Program at Stanford University
- GRANITE at Lake Superior State University in Michigan
- Stones and Bones at the University of Chicago
- Jr. Explorers hosted by Science Explorers across the United States
Life Sciences Camps
- NatureKids Summer Camp at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia
- Marine Biology Camps hosted by Whale Camp on Grand Manan Island
- DNA Summer Camp at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York
- Science and Engineering Program at Smith College in Massachusetts
Math Sciences Camps
- DO-IT Summer Math Academy for deaf and hard-of-hearing participants, located at the University of Washington
- Summer Math Scholars hosted by MESA Seattle
- AwesomeMath hosted at the University of Texas at Dallas
- MathPath at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts
- Ross Mathematics Program at Ohio State University
Social Science Camps
- Summer Scholars Program at Clemson University in South Carolina
- International Affairs with Model UN hosted by Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs in Philadelphia.
- Summer College for High School Students at Syracuse University in New York
- Summer Discovery social sciences courses hosted by Musiker Discovery Programs across the US and abroad.
- Sally Ride Science Camp at UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Stanford, Caltech, and MIT
- International Summer School for Young Physicists hosted at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada
- Science Summer Camps organized by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Maine
- The Physics Factory Discovery Camp in various locations around the United States.
Local Science Centers
Science centers and museums in your area can be the perfect educational resource for K-12 students. They will often host seasonal events, special exhibits, and guest lecturers, allowing students to grasp current innovations in various STEM fields. Parents and students can locate the nearest science center by searching the Association of Science Technology Centers database.
Parents and students can also explore K-12 STEM enrichment materials and games online. K-12 students are becoming increasingly tech savvy, and they can test out STEM theories within the safety of virtual experiments. Encourage your child to take a break from video games on their smartphones and tablets, and install a few STEM-related mobile apps for them to browse. These online resources can serve as a great resource for educators who wish to supplement coursework with new projects.
- Intel Education K-12 STEM Resources
- Kinetic City
- Math Academy App
- Engineer Your Life
- STEM Resources from PBS
- TinkerBox HD app
High school students can prepare for STEM studies in college by getting a head start with AP courses. After you complete an AP class and take the national exam, your score can qualify you for college credits. These credits can help reduce your upcoming college tuition bills and prepare you for collegiate-level STEM studies. STEM-oriented student clubs, mentors, scholarships, and high schools can help students gain invaluable research experience.
- Calculus AB
- Calculus BC
- Computer Science A
- Environmental Science
- Physics B
- Physics C
- STEMCA – STEM Clubs of America
- STEMX Community Engagement Guide
- National Science Teachers Association: The Rise of STEM Clubs
- Sequoia High School STEM Club
- Kellogg School STEM Club
- STEM Mentoring Research
- LifeJourney Program by Lockheed Martin
- National Science Foundation Mentor Award Recipients
- Columbia Crew Memorial Scholarship from the Texas Space Grant Consortium
- ASHRAE Scholarship Program
- Edwards Life Sciences Scholarship Program
- BlackBerry Scholars Program
- Thermo Scientific Pierce Scholarship Awards
The Top 10 STEM High Schools
- School of Life Sciences at Cleveland High School in Washington
- Academy for Sciences and Agriculture in Minnesota
- Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Massachusetts
- Academy of Allied Health and Science in New Jersey
- The STEM High School in Redmond, Washington
- High Technology High School in New Jersey
- Michael E DeBakey High School for Health Professionals in Texas
- Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts
- BASIS Tucson in Arizona
- Newton South High School in Massachusetts
STEM Resources for College Students
Colleges are facing major STEM student retention issues. A study conducted by National Academy press shows that the number of people pursuing STEM bachelor's degrees has dropped by 18 percent in the last twenty years. Colleges are responding by reducing student to teacher ratios, in the hope that these scholars will continue their STEM education, finish their degrees, and begin a career in these fields. These schools are fighting to retain the STEM majors they currently have.
Schools are actively trying to make STEM degree programs more accessible for incoming freshmen. Colleges like the University of Michigan request that STEM teachers offer additional academic support, provide feedback frequently, and challenge students with exploratory activities. Students might find that their universities are working hard to address a previous lack in STEM academic support. Prospective and current college students can explore extracurricular internships, summer excursions, honors societies, and mentorship programs to become more comfortable with STEM fields. These outlets can help scholars build professional networks and complete their degrees.
Summer Research and Internships for College Students
There are countless STEM research and internship opportunities for college students. Organizations like Pathway to Science and the federal Department of Education have compiled exhaustive online lists of research programs throughout the U.S. Bookmark these directories and check them periodically for roles that interest you. Here are a few examples of the STEM opportunities available.
- U.S. Department of Energy General Counsel Undergraduate Intern Program
- U.S. Geological Society Student Internship Program
- Homeland Security Pathways Internship Program
- U.S. Department of Transportation Summer Internship Program
Honor Societies for College Students
Many scientific honors societies are operated at the national level, helping you connect with like-minded scholars and friends. These honor societies often send out periodic newsletters, so that members can read about their peers' accomplishments. Some colleges have independent honor societies, which can offer more personalized attention and support.
- Phi Lambda Upsilon national chemistry honors society
- Chemistry Honors Society at Fairleigh Dickinson University
- Gamma Sigma Epsilon National Chemistry Society
- Beta Delta Chi at Queens College
- Upsilon Pi Epsilon international computing honors society
- Eta Kappa Nu at the University of North Carolina Charlotte
- Computer Science Honors Society at DePauw University
- Sigma Zeta National Honors Society
- Tau Beta Pi national honors society
- Chi Epsilon national honors society
- IEEE Eta Kappa Nu national society
- Alpha Pi Mu national industrial engineering society
- Pi Tau Sigma national honor society for mechanical engineers
- Sigma Gamma Epsilon national honors society
- The Geological Society of America
- Eta Rho at SUNY
- Mu Alpha Theta national honors society
- Pi Mu Epsilon national honors society
- Mu Eta Sigma National Math Honors Society
Mentorships for College Students
Active and retired STEM educators and professionals often sign up to become a student mentor at local colleges. Search online and see if your prospective schools have a mentorship program. Students can look to their mentors for academic and career-based advice and for networking assistance. Mentors will often ask students to set specific academic and professional goals, and then oversee the steps students take to achieve them. Here are some examples of STEM-dedicated mentor programs in the United States.
- STEM Mentoring Program at Oakton Community College
- G-STEM at Spelman College
- Making Connections at University of Washington
- STEM Programs at Augsburg College