Straight Outta STEM Council:
STEM changing lives in Iowa 
For the founding members of the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council it likely comes as a mild shock to be reminded that last month marked the STEM Council's fourth anniversary. Many will recall the first meeting at the Science Center of Iowa (site of our redux in December) on Halloween day in 2011 where two recommendations set a course for success: (1) Establish a regional network and (2) Create a scaling model for tried-and-true programs.
A great array of programs and a significant number of Iowans have been engaged since that epic launch. In sum over these four years, ten STEM Council Seals of Approval have been awarded, three colleges now offer the STEM teaching endorsement with a dozen more in development, six rockstar educators have earned the I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award, eight STEM Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers (BEST) are operational, 13 Redesigned Learning Environments (RLE) pepper the state, scores of informal educators have undergone professional development by the STEM Council's Active Learning Community, 150 Microsoft IT Academy sites are certifying, almost 300 Iowa STEM Teacher Externships have fused schools with industries, more than 35 community STEM festivals have enthralled thousands of families throughout the network, 400 schools have brought the "Hour of Code" to their students and about 7,000 educators introduced top STEM programs to some 300,000 youngsters through the STEM Scale-Up Program within nearly every school district in Iowa.
Couple all of this reach with the mass mailings and social media; presentations and news bits; business and community partnerships; and advocacy and volunteerism coursing through STEM Council and Regional Advisory Board members and the impact so well-detailed in the STEM Council's annual evaluation report makes perfect sense.

Entering year five, Iowa's wave of inspired young STEM-ers bring into play new metrics related to workforce and employment. May our next four years match or exceed the accomplishments of the last, coming straight outta STEM Council and changing lives in Iowa.

December 7, 2015
Computer Science Education Week begins
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December 7, 2015
STEM Scale-Up Program Provider Proposals due
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December 11, 2015
I.O.W.A. STEM Teacher Award nominations due
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December 16, 2015
Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council Meeting

STEM Council Operations Center
University of Northern Iowa
214 East Bartlett
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0298
PHONE 319-273-2959
E-MAIL [email protected]

MVP for Iowa STEM: Dr. Mark Putnam 

Dr. Mark Putnam, president of Central College, serves
on the Executive Committee of the STEM Council to help bridge PreK-12 and higher education in STEM fields.
"I am here with a gift." It is a phrase that Dr. Mark Putnam used when talking to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the STEM Council, more than two years ago before being appointed to the STEM Council in August 2013.
The President of Central College claims this "gift" involved using his network to engage more deeply with Iowa's independent colleges and connect their efforts and resources with the Iowa STEM movement. Since then, Putnam has used his role on the Executive Committee of the STEM Council to help produce two significant pieces for STEM success in the state, including the 4-Year College and University STEM Champions Network and the STEM Council's Seal of Approval.
The 4-Year College and University STEM Champions Network brings in top professors and deans of various STEM fields at Iowa's public and private colleges and universities to convene regularly by telephone and, occasionally, in person. One recent product of this community was a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to grow Iowa's STEM teaching endorsement. A spin-off of the network has been a community college version of STEM champions that convenes regularly as well. Both groups were brought together recently at St. Ambrose University for a focused discussion of collaborative roles in broadening and expanding the number of campuses offering the STEM teaching endorsement in Iowa.
Putnam's second contribution to the STEM Council's Seal of Approval came to light with the intention to expand STEM Council resources. To date, 10 outstanding programs have earned the Seal
"I could see the benefit of widening the circle. I saw a way to leverage a lot of the related activity that would be fully aligned with STEM Council efforts," Putnam said. "Our funding resources are very limited and will only stretch so far, so it is the hope that the Seal of Approval can help expand participation in STEM without the need to expand our funding as well."
In addition to these innovations Dr. Putnam brings to the STEM Council, he also engages his college. Central College has hosted a South Central Regional family STEM festival for the last three years and has contributed to the STEM Council's pursuits in national grant applications and proposals for additional funding.
"It's in the DNA of Central College," he said, to have a vested interest in advancing its own offerings in STEM education. In fact, Putnam pinpoints the college's progression in expanding its natural sciences, biology and chemistry programs as early as the 1960s. That is why Putnam says his role on the STEM Council has also benefited him into his sixth year as president of Central College.
"It has helped me think more creatively about what we do here at Central College," Putnam said. "When you serve on a council like this and you hear the ideas of such a diverse group, it informs your thinking about what you're doing on your own campus."
Under his leadership, Central College has started an engineering program by creating new facilities and hiring more faculty and has started a larger outreach in the K-12 spectrum by helping train high school mathematics teachers from low-income areas with new methods of incorporating probability and statistics into classes effectively. All in all, Putnam says his experience on the STEM Council is unlike any other opportunity.
"Each of us has an opportunity to do a few things in our lives and our careers that are highly impactful," Putnam said. "What is so impressive about the STEM Council is that it has very strong integration from the top levels of Iowa's leadership within the state government, as well as the corporate partnerships, and then all of the education sector's talent. That kind of synergy is rare. So, to be a part of that is, first of all, a simple privilege. I think it will be historic. Roll up your sleeves and get involved in the STEM initiative because it is going to be important for the State of Iowa for generations to come."
We are grateful for the time and talents brought to the STEM table by Central College President Mark Putnam and the other 46 members of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council.

Grab a hat and strap on boots: No day is typical for a Regional STEM Manager 

Southwest Regional STEM Manager Deb Frazee visits the preschool at Hamburg Elementary to support a STEM Scale-Up Program by participating right alongside students. It is just one of many roles the six regional STEM managers fulfill across the state.
They are Regional STEM Managers for the STEM Council. Yet, their title does not do justice in explaining or honoring the dozens of hats that each of them wear in their respective STEM regions. To their local constituents, they might have been an archaeologist working with students for a day (see picture), a traveler from school district to school district promoting STEM, an adviser helping teachers align resources with the Iowa STEM initiative or an event planner bringing a family STEM festival to the community. In fact they are all of the above and more on any given day.
If there were a typical day in the life of a regional STEM manager, it might start out with handling official paperwork. From grant agreements and financial statements to data analysis broken down by communities, a regional STEM manager keeps the business handled and ensures with utmost transparency that funds received from both public and private sources reach the areas in their regions with the highest need.
Next, they are likely to make a road trip out to a school, a Rotary Club, an AEA or a prospective business partner. One manager estimated about five hours per week are spent in the car visiting approximately 16 different cities a month. They travel to school districts to see the STEM Scale-Up Programs in action, they attend AEA meetings with superintendents to stay tuned in to the educational challenges and opportunities across the state and they participate in STEM Scale-Up professional development trainings to assist and answer questions from educators - to name just a few destinations.
Back to their STEM Hub Institutions, managers invest considerable time in preparing family STEM festivals. These events take months of coordinated planning efforts between the regional STEM manager, a venue, volunteers, a community and its local businesses and organizations to cater to the needs of that community and showcase STEM careers and opportunities to families attending.

Regional STEM managers also convene regional STEM advisory boards monthly and prepare by gathering communication materials, strategizing agendas and budget items and showcasing partner contributions to STEM. The regional STEM managers use these meetings to keep their advisory board members updated and equipped with the materials needed to share the Iowa STEM story throughout the region.
Though no day is typical and many hats must fit these talented servants, one overarching goal remains the same - to serve as the STEM Council's eyes, ears, voice and hands in their assigned region, ensuring that all Iowans have equal access and opportunity to outstanding STEM programming offered through the STEM Council. Only through Iowa's acclaimed network of these regional STEM managers can the reach of STEM expand to all corners of the state in both rural and urban communities, inspiring the next generation of Iowa's STEM-talented workforce.
To learn more about each region and its regional STEM manager, visit

Computer Science gets 'Scaled-Up' by Iowa STEM 

Project Lead The Way's Computer Science program
takes over a classroom at Davenport West High School taught by PLTW CS Master Teacher Doyle Massey.
With Computer Science Education Week right around the corner, the "T" in STEM is in the spotlight once more through and the STEM Council's "Code Iowa" partnership. This year, the new Computer Science and Software Engineering course by Project Lead The Way helps support these IT efforts in Iowa.
The goal of the program works to demystify what computers do and help students develop an interest in computer science by realizing they can do more than use apps and play games. Geared towards high school students, the courses introduce them to some of the most in-demand programs used by industry professionals, including the Android App Development program, Java, Python, NetLogo and GitHub.
"The interesting part about computer science is that programs change, so we don't want to focus on any one program to make a student an expert in it," said Jason Taylor, vice president of programs for PLTW. "We want to make sure they understand how to use the right program at the right time, and if they need to learn that new, next program, we want to make sure that they understand the basics and the theory behind how it works."
The course is typically offered as an elective credit by teachers in the mathematics, science or technology education realms. However, a social science teacher at Adel DeSoto Minburn High School in Adel has earned the certification to teach the course and has witnessed the opportunity that computer science provides to her students.
"What I like most about the PLTW's computer science program is that students get a lot of practice applying their skills and solving problems that don't have one right answer," said Robin West. "A lot of times students are most comfortable in classes where there is a right answer and a wrong answer, but life and work in your career is rarely split into 'correct' and 'incorrect.'  I like that students get experience with and guidance in navigating through those grey opportunities."
PLTW recognizes the skills that come with computer science and hopes to help students find a passion to pursue it through college or career pathways, crediting the partnership with the STEM Council for helping them achieve that goal.
"From auto repair to healthcare, virtually every industry is looking to hire employees who have computer science and computational thinking knowledge," said Jennifer Cahill, senior director of media and public relations for PLTW. "So, for students in classrooms today, this is such a critical component of their education, and we truly believe that every student in America should have access to these kinds of high-quality learning experiences. Thanks to the STEM Council, we are able to impact more students and help make Iowa's education and economy stronger."
To learn more about this program or the other 2015-16 STEM Scale-Up Programs, visit