March 2020
Monthly News

Iowa STEM and Coronavirus – a message from the director

Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Professionals

IT Certification Expands Future with Computer Science

STEM Opportunities Progress in Iowa

April 1, 2020 - 1:00 p.m.
Northeast Regional STEM Advisory Board Virtual Meeting

April 13, 2020 - 1:00 p.m.
South Central Regional STEM Advisory Board Virtual Meeting
Iowa STEM and Coronavirus -
a message from the director
Young Iowans try out health diagnostic tools brought by Guthrie County Hospital to a recent Southwest Regional STEM Festival in Earlham, Iowa.
It takes a crisis to fully appreciate the professionals who step up to deal with it on our behalf. We hold especially dear our firefighters and police officers since 9/11/2001. We honor and celebrate our military servants who protect us from terrorism and global conflict. And now we are filled with gratitude for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic through so many mitigation efforts at the community, state, national and global levels. Professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are today’s heroes.
Epidemiologists and statisticians are using mathematics to establish distribution patterns so that resources can be prioritized. Computer scientists model various spread scenarios to inform government actions. Nurses, EMTs and other direct healthcare providers are drawing on expertise in immunology and cellular biology to protect and heal. Virologists have profiled the COVID bug so that a vaccine can be developed. Pharmacists weigh a cascade of biochemical effects in filling prescriptions to abate symptoms. Geneticists deciphered the genes of COVID-19 to quickly find it in swabs of noses and throats. Biomedical engineers design respirators and safety gear that technicians cannot build fast enough. How fortunate are we Iowans that people chose to study those fields in school and now work so hard for us. This crisis is what education professionals call a teachable moment: one use of time during this period of suspended normalcy could be to help inspire their successors, today’s preK-12 learners, to be tomorrow’s STEM heroes for the challenges sure to come on the heels of coronavirus.
The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council has pursued a mission to inspire Iowa’s young people to become innovative, enterprising contributors to our future workforce and to the quality of life in our communities. In each of the nearly nine years since launch, the urgency of that mission has grown, and strong return on investment has accrued. But, like every other education service provider, the Council’s implementation team has suspended in-person activities until the COVID-19 crisis passes. Now that half a million youngsters are learning at home alongside their parents and other caregivers for weeks to come, the STEM team has seized an opportunity to provide resources for this teachable moment. Educators and caregivers of our future physicians, coders, statisticians, builders and teachers can make lemonade from the lemons we have been dealt by visiting . The STEM Council’s network team has curated a collection of some outstanding activities to do in kitchens, garages, backyards and online to bridge downtime and send them back to school invigorated to charge ahead toward a STEM career. The STEM team adds depth and variety to the resource daily and stands by to offer any assistance needed. Iowa students, educators and STEM professionals are welcome to contribute links to activities, demonstrations, tutorials, tours, talks and other learning tools to .
History suggests a spike in interest and action after national crises. Life science research made significant advancements in the wake of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. After the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, U.S. consumers demanded and got much more efficient vehicles while markets diversified petroleum sourcing. After 9/11, the US military enjoyed a modest bump in enlistees. Perhaps from 2025 to 2035, we will see enrollment spikes in health and bioscience majors at Iowa colleges and universities as a result of this teachable moment brought to us by COVID-19. Until then, a hearty nod of appreciation from appropriate distance to all of Iowa’s pandemic responders and to those nurturing their next wave.
Jeff Weld, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council
Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Professionals
Students from Saint Albert Catholic Schools received hands-on experience with robot-assisted technology at CHI Health in Council Bluffs as part of their STEM BEST Program.
Today’s students will be the innovators and enterprising members of our future workforce, leading change in unprecedented circumstances and rising to meet the needs of our communities.
The STEM BEST Program provides opportunity for students to gain knowledge, understanding and experience in professional settings, working directly with local businesses to pursue career possibilities and understand local business and community needs.
Students involved in the Saint Albert STEM BEST Program were able to experience cutting-edge robot-assisted technologies in the medical field. A surgical technician and surgical nurse at CHI Health in Council Bluffs taught the students how to operate the robot, allowing the students a hands-on experience similar to how the robot is used in surgery.
Many other STEM BEST Programs are providing amazing work-based learning experiences that inspire students and help prepare the future workforce. That experience will grow again this fall, as newly awarded schools and schools districts will expand on their classroom learning through the STEM BEST Program.
The application is now open to apply for the STEM BEST Program, through May 15. To assist with the application process, the STEM Council hosted a webinar series to provide a closer look into commonly asked questions and important aspects of the STEM BEST Program and application process, including:

  • Session 1: “Work-Based Learning and STEM BEST: What is it and why do I need it?” 
  • Session 2: “Tips to building partnerships with local business and industry.” 
  • Session 3: “Grant-Writing 101.” 
  • Session 4: “Cost-Share: What is it and how do I plan for it?” 
  • Session 5: “How to navigate the Online Database for application submission.” 

As a follow up to our webinar series and in an effort to connect and better serve those interested in applying for the STEM BEST Program, the STEM Council will host virtual questions and answer sessions.

More information and links to the webinar series can be found at
IT Certification Expands Future with Computer Science
Since 2014, the STEM Council has been providing a complete information technology (IT) education solution through the Microsoft Imagine Academy. This program is designed to help drive employability, digital literacy, technical and STEM-focused training and certification, and 21st-century workforce development for students.
Each year, 150 Iowa schools take part in the Microsoft Imagine Academy. A total of 11,578 students have been certified from 2014 to 2019. During the 2018-2019 school year, there were 2,102 student certifications and 83 Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications. Recently added certifications include the MTA certification for IT Infrastructure and Data Science.
The increasing importance of computer science as a basic skill in the 21 st century has brought a new thrust to the program. The STEM Council is opening a Request for Proposals (RFP) to provide the IT certification for the next three years with an emphasis on computer science. For more information about the RFP, visit or contact Molly Ungs at .
“This is a great time to enhance the program and increase the focus on computer science as a growing need in the workforce. The demand for IT certifications is growing and we need to adapt to meet the needs of employers,” said Ann Watts, the STEM Council’s project coordinator for the Microsoft Imagine Academy.
For more information about the Imagine Academy, contact project coordinator Ann Watts at .
STEM Opportunities Progress in Iowa
The spread of COVID-19 has necessitated change in gatherings, learning, social distancing and more. Despite the challenges, the STEM Council remains committed to providing access to STEM programming and resources in the safest manner possible. Below are some of our exciting opportunities coming up.

  • Tomorrow STEMs from Iowa: Public service announcements (PSAs) are currently being aired on network television. The “Tomorrow STEMs from Iowa” PSAs highlight how STEM skills students are learning now will influence and impact their future.

  • STEM BEST Program Application: An estimated 15 to 20 new STEM BEST models will be welcome to Iowa’s array of 58 operating education innovators. The STEM BEST Program application is open through May 15, 2020. This program provides resources for schools to implement community partnerships that include real work experiences for students with local businesses and organizations.

  • STEM Teacher Externships Program: Placements are currently being made for educators to work side-by-side business and industry professionals in the summer. This program brings classroom application to life and helps prepare students for future careers.

  • STEM Equity Professional Development: Acting on a priority of the STEM Council to address a need for additional focus on STEM equity in Iowa, planning is underway for professional development in STEM Equity in the near future. Stay tuned for more information.

  • STEM Day at the Iowa State Fair: STEM Day at the Iowa State Fair will be held on August 23, 2020. Each year, the STEM Council fills the Grand Concourse with hands-on STEM activities and demonstrations for the whole family.

  • STEM Scale-Up Program: The 2020-21 STEM Scale-Up Program menu will roll out in classrooms across Iowa this fall. Awardees will be notified in April and will participate in professional development this summer.

  • STEM Council Working Groups: Four top priorities from the January meeting of the STEM Council will translate to working groups charged to bring forth action recommendations in the fall. An invitation to join each group remains open. They are (1) Career Awareness; (2) District-wide STEM practices; (3) Equity and inclusion (a re-launch of an existing committee), (4) Teacher preparation and professional development. A fifth working group is being assembled to re-examine the question of STEM-to-STEAM. E-mail if interested.
The STEM Council Network Team continues to be accessible through virtual communication. For more information about STEM opportunities, contact your Regional STEM Manager or email the Central Operations Team at .
Contact the Iowa STEM Operations Center by phone at (319) 273-2959
or by email at