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STEM Catalysts, STEM Dynamos and Associations Employer responsibility: Without detracting from the excellent STEM involvement of some, most employers needing STEM employees have harvested the products of education while neglecting the seed. All types of STEM employers must be engaged with high school students with both up-to-date STEM content and career information. Students need access to more than one or two STEM specialists for brief periods during the four years of high school. STEM Catalysts are volunteer specialists in STEM fields and may range from advanced college students to research scientists and design engineers to experts from various trades/crafts. STEM Catalysts provide high school students with perspectives about STEM fields and careers as well as technical knowledge teachers may not have. They come from science-rich organizations such as universities, corporations, small businesses, government agencies, non-profit research organizations, etc. They have received training for interacting effectively with high school STEM students. A STEM Catalyst’s mission is to provide: (1) an introduction to a specific Student Project; (2) occasional interactions with student team members as an involved “client;” and (3) response to the final report of the team. A STEM Catalyst should need to spend no more than about 5 hours total on a single team’s Student Project over the duration of the work. The STEM Catalyst does not need to travel or have any significant interference with regular work activities resulting from student and teacher contacts.
STEM Catalysts from underrepresented communities would be extremely valuable for interacting with students at schools serving underrepresented populations.
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Super STEM Catalysts: Some schools may be in extreme need of support for STEM due to size, inadequate funding, Teaching Teams with limited expertise, etc. Some STEM Catalysts should be supported with extra training and given additional time to provide more extensive contacts with both students and faculty. STEM Dynamos are high visibility volunteers gifted in stimulating high school students to consider careers in STEM fields and to work harder academically. They may be celebrities or astronauts and need not be STEM specialists. They may present at scheduled times to national audiences. Teachers may have classes and/or students “tune in” to STEM Dynamo programs or use replays for motivational purposes as appropriate. Associations are established at national and/or state levels to provide quality control and to facilitate matching STEM Catalysts and STEM Dynamos with Student Teams. STEM Catalysts and Dynamos who meet specified criteria register with the Association(s) to be added to a database that can be accessed conveniently by Lead Teachers. STEM Catalysts and teachers negotiate times for availability and exchange information as appropriate. Association personnel are available to address any issues that may arise. The Associations also serve as focal points for Student Project development and distribution. They establish guidelines for writing Student Projects, sponsor writing teams, and distribute products as appropriate.