Rocket Manufacturing launches STEM BEST to new heights 

Myles Van Maanen, a senior at Rock Valley High School, is one of several students experiencing and producing real-world products at Rocket Manufacturing, a 2014 STEM BEST model awardee.
Don't be fooled by the name. Rocket Manufacturing doesn't build rockets--at least not yet. For now, the program at Rock Valley High School operates as one of Iowa's STEM BEST® (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) models that build powerful school+business partnerships in communities across the state.
Rock Valley Community School District received a STEM BEST award to help launch the program in 2014 that has grown into a fully-functional, student-led business, serving local businesses as a subcontractor and supplying machine parts and tools the companies request.
More than 10 industry partners have supported Rocket Manufacturing by providing equipment and donations, including a $50,000 software from a local machine shop and $70,000 worth of equipment from Northwest Iowa Community College. The lead instructor for Rocket Manufacturing even spent six weeks last summer training with various businesses to ensure he had a well-rounded experience with bookkeeping, marketing, machine work, sales, engineering and more. In fact, Valley Machining Company, just a few blocks from the school, offers students unlimited support from its employees.
"If they need help with programming a machine or learning a new software, all they need to do is call us and we'll send someone over to help," said Tony Rau, engineering and sales manager at Valley Machining Company. "Rocket Manufacturing gives students an opportunity to see job opportunities at different levels, and we would be overjoyed to hire someone coming out of high school with the basic technical and soft skills learned in this program."
This financial and educational support led to the creation of Rocket Manufacturing's 10,000 square foot machine shop with all of the latest CNC technologies. Besides developing the hands-on, technical skills, students experience communication, collaboration and other soft skills necessary to function in a business environment.
As word spreads about the program, Rock Valley Superintendent Chad Janzen says community support continues to grow along with the interests of his students who want to participate in the program next year, which is expected to expand from 13 to 20 students this fall.
For more information about Rocket Manufacturing, visit their profile on our website at or visit to learn more about the seven models in Iowa.

April 3, 2016
Tama County Family STEM Festival
1:00 to 4:00 PM
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April 4, 2016
SW Valley Middle School STEM Festival
5:00 to 7:30 PM
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April 7, 2016
NE Iowa Family STEM Festival
4:00 to 7:00 PM
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April 14, 2016
SC Iowa Family STEM Festival
6:00 to 8:00 PM
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April 16, 2016
Dubuque Area Family STEM Festival
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
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April 21, 2016
Statewide STEM Tour
St. Theresa Catholic School
1:00 to 2:00 PM
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April 22, 2016
Statewide STEM Tour
Mason City School District
12:30 to 3:30 PM
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April 23, 2016
SE Iowa STEM Festival
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
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April 29, 2016
Hit One Out of the Park with STEM (STEM Festival)
8:00 AM to 12:00 PM
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STEM Council
Operations Center
University of Northern Iowa
214 East Bartlett
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0298
PHONE 319-273-2959
E-MAIL [email protected]

Bridging the worlds of workforce and education: Iowa STEM Teacher Externships

Jenna Noble, a teacher at George-Little Rock High School, takes on welding at Sudenga Industries as part of her Iowa STEM Teacher Externships experience.
A clarion call for educators is to link classroom content to real-life applications in the exciting world of Iowa's workplaces. The challenge for teachers and the institutions that prepare them is to stay abreast of how their field of study applies at work beyond school walls. That is where the STEM Council's program, "Iowa STEM Teacher Externships," and others like it come in. Secondary teachers of STEM subjects take a deep dive into the world of commerce over six weeks of summer, emerging fully-equipped to answer the perennial question, "When are we ever going to use this?"
After spending six weeks at the John Deere Des Moines Works facility, Waukee High School engineering teacher John Kotz put the experience this way: "If teachers don't get out and see how businesses actually operate, it is hard for them to convey business operations and models to their students. Also, by experiencing the latest trends and technology, I can teach as a more informed resource."
Kotz is one of almost 60 teachers immersed into workplace experiences through this program each summer. Over the course of seven years, 90 percent of Teacher Externs have considered the Externship their best professional development experience. Workplace Hosts, who range from manufacturers to hospitals to natural resource agencies, enjoy productivity boosts and cost savings as a result.
A supervisor at Siemens Energy in Fort Madison observed that, "Having a Teacher Extern in the plant makes a difference. Someone who is used to teaching becomes a student. That student has reason to question why we do things a certain way, causing us to look at things from a different perspective."
Everybody wins when Teacher Externs bridge the worlds of education and work. For information about Iowa STEM Teacher Externships and how to participate, visit
MVP for Iowa STEM: DMACC President Rob Denson 

Des Moines Area Community College President Rob Denson presents the STEM Counselor Engagement Working Group's recommendations at the June 2015 meeting of the STEM Council, alongside his co-chair University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud.
With a near-perfect attendance record and a long history of contributions to the foundation of Iowa STEM, it is no surprise that this month's MVP for Iowa STEM is Des Moines Area Community College President Rob Denson.
As a founding appointee to the STEM Council and the Executive Committee in 2011, Denson has served on several working groups of the Council, including the STEM Summit Planning group, the Public Awareness Campaign search committee, the STEM Teacher Recruitment and Preparation group that produced the STEM Teaching Endorsement and even the lead of the Regional Networks Design and Governance group in the formative days of the STEM Council. He is currently active on the STEM Support of Agricultural Science group, the IT Program Proposal Selection Committee and co-chairs the STEM Counselor Engagement group alongside University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud.
Just last June, the STEM Counselor Engagement working group presented its recommendations to the STEM Council, and since then, Denson says co-leading this group is his most personally-rewarding involvement with the STEM Council to date. In fact, DMACC and Heartland AEA 11 recently raised the funding necessary to co-sponsor a statewide counselor stakeholder survey that will provide a deeper insight into the role, scope and function of Iowa's school counselors.
"The Iowa School Counselor Association is a group of passionate professionals dedicated to what they do for their students and have taken the recommendations of the STEM Council to heart," Denson said. "STEM is one of the few topics in education that will not be a 'flavor of the month.' It is subject matter that can really excite kids, but you have to want to get them excited about it first."
At a national level, he promotes Iowa STEM as the chair of the STEM Higher Education Council of STEMconnector®. Yet, Denson agrees his involvement on the Iowa STEM Council is unlike any other "team."
"We all work very well together. That's what makes this Council fun and successful. I want to do more because of the team I'm on," Denson said. "I am a firm believer that there is a solution to every problem, and Iowa's problem is that we need to have more and more young Iowans interested in STEM careers and going into college who are college and career-ready. Someone will figure this out, and I am confident that it will be us."
This month, we thank President Rob Denson for his dedication and passion that has helped move Iowa STEM forward. For more information about the other committed 46 members of the STEM Council, please visit

Four more stamped with STEM Council's Seal of Approval 

Since March 2015, the STEM Council has awarded the Seal of Approval to 13 programs and events around Iowa that help advance the Iowa STEM mission.
It has been one year since its launch in March 2015, and the STEM Council's Seal of Approval has already recognized 13 STEM-related programs or events happening organically across Iowa.
The Seal acknowledges those STEM opportunities impacting students outside of the STEM Council's efforts that help achieve and advance the Iowa STEM mission. In return, the Seal can be leveraged for promotion, funding and other types of support.
Since December, a review committee awarded the Seal to two programs and two events, including:
The AAUW (American Association of University Women) Tech Trek Camp is a week-long residential STEM camp for girls entering 8th grade and is part of AAUW's national programming designed to develop interest, excitement and self-confidence in STEM fields for girls.
Free to schools and organizations that host the program nationwide, Camp Invention features collaborative learning opportunities led by local teachers in a safe environment, striving to enhance each child's ability to learn through teamwork and gain an appreciation for discovery.
A group of Des Moines students devoted to promoting science literacy and creating awareness of cutting-edge mathematics and science research works to help high school STEM students explore career options by connecting them with successful Iowa men and women in STEM.
Open Minds, Open Doors is a half-day conference at Coe College in Cedar Rapids coordinated by Grant Wood Area Education Agency that brings in nearly 500 middle school girls (7th-8th grades) to encourage them to pursue career fields with foundations in STEM.
For more information on how to apply for the Seal of Approval for your program or event in Iowa, please visit