Models | Kirkwood Regional Center at UI

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Coralville, IA
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High school students from six Eastern Iowa school districts help develop solutions to real-world problems through STEM Innovator, and they earn college credit for doing so. Students meet twice a week at the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa to collaborate with team members, develop their innovative solutions, pitch their project proposals to industry experts, and receive valuable feedback on how to improve.

Examples of real problems that our students have tasked on:

        • Air Quality: The student team developed a public education campaign with the State Hygienic Lab for use in the University of Iowa Mobile Museum.
        • ATV Safety: The students developed a public education campaign for University of Iowa Emergency Medicine.
        • Career Awareness: The team explored the State Hygienic Lab’s need to increase awareness of its STEM career opportunities.
        • Textbook Sites: The student team explored the business opportunities around helping students manage passwords for multiple online textbook sources.

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How it Works

High school students from the Iowa City area are participating in STEM Innovator through the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa. At the beginning of the course, students explore issues or problems they or the public are facing. Business partners, such as the State Hygienic Lab, also outline for students problems they are facing and want student help to solve. Students with similar passions collaborate with one another and with business and industry partners to gain the knowledge and resources needed to innovate a solution. Throughout the course, the students refine the issues they are working on, gain information through customer discovery to help them innovate a better solution, pitch their project and solutions to industry experts, and receive valuable feedback for improving their final projects. For example, a group of five students partnered with University of Iowa Emergency Medicine to develop a public education campaign and website to combat the high rate of fatalities with ATV accidents.

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Goals

Preparing Students with 21st Century Skills

The STEM Innovator course combines STEM, innovation, and the entrepreneurial mindset, facilitating the development and practice of important 21st century skills that students will need for future success, such as problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership, among others. Students also work to further develop their strengths, which are identified through the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment and then used to help them find their roles in the teams.

 

Promoting Career Awareness

By partnering with industry experts and business professionals, students gain firsthand experience in different career fields. The collaborative partnerships also provide networking opportunities for students to gain confidence and knowledge today and experience or jobs in the future.

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Population Targeted

Each student team targets a different population. For example, the ATV team developed educational materials for parents and adolescents who own and operate ATVs. The air quality team designed the campaign for the general public and, in particular, for elementary students who engage with the University of Iowa’s Mobile Museum. The career awareness team explored how to reach high school students and get them interested in the State Hygienic Lab. The textbook team explored with high school and college students, as well as teachers, how a universal online textbook password file might help with homework.

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Customer Discovery

Each student team conducts customer discovery to advance their projects based on the targeted population. Teams consult industry experts with experience on the topic or similar projects. They also consult with potential customers. For example, the air quality team partnered with University of Iowa College of Education students to gain feedback and expertise on how to tailor information for students.

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Key Partners

State Hygienic Laboratory

University of Iowa Emergency Medicine

National Advanced Driving Simulator

University of Iowa Mobile Museum

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Successes to Date

STEM Day at the Capitol

Students involved in the STEM Innovator course had the opportunity to share their work during the seventh annual STEM Day at the Capitol on Feb. 18, 2016, in Des Moines. The air quality project was presented to legislators by a student, alongside business partners from the State Hygienic Laboratory.

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Olivia Sun// Student Life Marketing + Design
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