CATALYST CONVERSATIONS: School is Out, But STEM is IN! Keeping Students Engaged with STEM During the Summer
School may be out for the summer but our ISTC Education team is keeping students engaged with exciting opportunities to gain skills and confidence in STEM careers with our 6×3 programs, The Bright Project and The ACT Project.
We recognize that preparing students for the future workforce requires an interdisciplinary approach and the 6×3 Project combines three different disciplines and workforce skills through the collaboration of powerful organizations in the Illinois STEM community.
We spoke with our Director of Education, Becky Goldberg about the 6×3 programs and the impact that they are having on the students and mentors that are involved.
Becky’s work is rooted in creating access for students to explore and experience STEM through the context of real-world application. Becky was previously the Senior Manager of STEM Programs and has been with ISTC since 2019. Prior to joining ISTC, Becky was a classroom teacher and STEM coordinator in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Becky earned her Master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University and holds a B.A. in Environmental and Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Director of Education
WHAT IS THE 6X3 PROJECT AND WHY WAS IT CREATED?
The 6×3 Project adapts the successful components of ISTC’s STEM Challenge, and reimagines a more holistic approach to problem solving. ISTC collaborates with other innovative non-profits and a designated corporate partner to deliver an immersive 6-week summer experience that helps young innovators build skills in human-centered design, coding, entrepreneurship and business.
Company employees and community experts support student learning as mentors—providing expertise and feedback both in-person and virtually through the Mentor Matching Engine.
ISTC is proud to host multiple iterations of the 6×3 Project; The Bright Project, The ACT Project and Future Leaders.
THESE PROGRAMS ARE COLLABORATIONS WITH STEM-FOCUSED ORGANIZATIONS. CAN YOU SHARE WHY THESE PARTNERSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT AND WHAT YOUR PARTNERS’ ROLE IN THE PROGRAMMING LOOKS LIKE?
There are two types of partnerships that are crucial to the success of the 6×3 Project. The first is our corporate partners. This year those are comprised specifically of Baxter International, CME Group, and Horizon Therapeutics. These partners issue real-world challenges to our students which allow them to exercise problem-solving and research skills with a process that culminates in a practical and concrete final product. These corporate partnerships also provide skills-based volunteer opportunities for the companies’ employees, as each team of students has assigned mentors that guide and advise them throughout the project.
The second is our non-profit partners. This year we are working with Code Your Dreams, The Gray Matter Experience, and Code Nation to imbue our students with the skills necessary to tackle the challenges presented to them by our corporate partners. These non-profit organizations build students’ foundational abilities in technical skill areas such as coding and entrepreneurship.
“I was so impressed with the students, their creativity, engagement, and presentation I enjoyed observing them develop their ideas into a project, reshape the project and then develop a web page. This program is developing future leaders.”
– 2022 6×3 Mentor
WE RECOGNIZE THAT PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE FUTURE WORKFORCE REQUIRES AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH. CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES THAT ARE INCORPORATED IN THE 6X3 PROGRAM?
This program is designed to give students a complete beginning-to-end STEM industry experience. In that initial stage, when students receive their challenges from the corporate partners, their first step is to analyze the issue. They start with the design thinking process and dive into understanding their problem area. Then, as they immerse themselves in research, the 6×3 Project shifts them into a human-centered manner of thinking. This teaches them how to approach the challenge with empathy and direct their efforts to meet the needs of their target users. Students continue to utilize elements of design to prototype their end solution. They concurrently learn about the entrepreneurship, business, and marketing side of execution, in addition to coding a website or app. They truly get to know every step of the process from research to production of the solution and all the disciplines associated with those stages.
“I think that getting to work with my mentor was really helpful because he consistently offered us great feedback and was a good source of insight into the professional world.”
– 2022 6×3 Student Participant
WHAT OBSERVATIONS HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO MAKE OVER THE COURSE OF THE PROGRAM?
It can be intimidating at first, having the undivided attention of an expert in the field, but as students realize that there’s no pretense, that these are people whose sole purpose is to support them and help them learn, they open up. Their mentors nurture the ideas they have, encouraging new perspectives and approaches while praising the work they’ve already done, and that makes the students feel validated in the process. Over the course of the program, the conversations between mentors and students grow in depth, enthusiasm and quality. The positive development of mentor-mentee relationships is testament to the expansion of student skill-sets and confidence.
100% of participants in our 2022 cohort reported that as a result of participating in the program, they are more confident in their professional skills and feel confident that they can succeed in a STEM related industry. Additionally, 100% of participants reported that as a result of their experience in this program, they feel more comfortable interacting with professionals in the STEM field.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS THAT INTERESTED PARTIES CAN BECOME INVOLVED IN THIS IMPORTANT AND IMPACTFUL WORK?
ISTC Education hosts 4 programs, all rooted in meaningful mentorship. Whether you want to impact a local school, teacher, or student, ISTC Education makes skills based volunteering accessible for all.
Our next funderaiser is happening in just a few weeks, Pickle for a Purpose!
Reach out for direct program partnership opportunities.