Iowa STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers)

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council awarded five innovation grants to grow a series of community collaborations involving school and business partnerships, called STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers). Each awardee demonstrated through a rigorous, proposal process substantive commitments on the part of school and business stakeholders to bridge these two cultures through education programs deeply interwoven with business applications. Working side-by-side, teachers and industry professionals will craft curriculum and projects that prepare students for exciting career pathways in the STEM fields of manufacturing, information technology, bioscience (agriculture and medicine), finance, and more.

The STEM Council Executive Committee voted unanimously in December 2014 to disburse $150,000 in cost-shared funds to the five competitively-selected school partnerships, bringing to the table a total cost-share commitment of $773,509. The STEM Council is hopefully intent on growing more such community collaborations in the coming years. The five current partners are:

  • Bettendorf/Pleasant Valley
    • Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley School districts are in the process of developing an internship Academy structure with local business in the area of Computer Science. This academy program will involve high school curriculum, community college support, and several weeks working with industry professionals on authentic computer science problems and solutions.
    • Contact: Tammy Chelf at
  • Cedar Rapids/College Community (or Iowa BIG)
    • Iowa BIG is an option for earning core academic credit in Iowa's Creative Corridor that employs a project-based pedagogy and is fueled by curriculum developed in real-time with 100+ partners from business, nonprofit, and government agencies. Students are assessed in a competency-based framework as they immerse themselves on diverse teams of students, adults, professionals, and educators to become storytellers, makers, social entrepreneurs, and designers.
    • Contact: Shawn Cornally at
  • Kirkwood CC/University of Iowa/Clear Creek Amana/Iowa City/Regina/Solon/Tipton/West Branch/College Community
    • STEM Innovator course premieres at the new Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa opening in the fall of 2015. The innovative facility will house 500 high school students from seven partner school districts. Students will engage with STEM industry partners through innovation and entrepreneurship while developing solutions to problems of student and community interest. The curriculum is developed and implemented with 40+ community partners to meet industry standards. Students earn high school, Kirkwood Community College, and University of Iowa credit.
    • Contact: Leslie Flynn at
  • Northeast
    • The mission of the Northeast STEM program is to provide students at Northeast with an innovative, problem solving, and discovery-based environment that focuses on real world application. The program will engage students in authentic, real-world problems through the infusion of technology and curriculum.
    • Contact: Alicia Christiansen at
  • Rock Valley (or Rocket Manufacturing)
    • Rocket Manufacturing will be a fully-functioning, student-run manufacturer. Students will produce real parts for the real world and will participate in the marketing, accounting, design, production, and customer communications. Rocket Manufacturing will be the first of its kind in Iowa.

The Iowa STEM BEST Taskforce is chaired by Southeast Regional STEM Manager Kristine Bullock at