Year In Review

The Utah STEM Action Center is Utah’s leader in promoting science, technology, engineering, and math through best practices in education to ensure connection with industry and Utah’s long-term economic prosperity. This year completes the organization’s seventh year in operation since being established by the Utah State Legislature in 2013. This year also marks the first year that the STEM Action Center has operated as a division within the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts.

In fiscal year 2020, more than 300,000 students and community members were impacted through grants, community outreach programs, events, and other unique STEM experiences. More than 12,000 teachers at 750 schools were impacted through professional learning opportunities, and programs aimed at building capacity and inspiring their students to pursue and be successful in STEM. There were also seven new STEM School Designations, one school receiving an increased level of designation, and two schools that received redesignation throughout the state in FY2020, resulting in a total of 58 Utah schools choosing to deliberately integrate STEM with plans to continue to improve and build their STEM programs. These schools have also demonstrated parent and community support for STEM.

The STEM Action Center also played a significant role in supporting STEM education for students, educators, schools and school districts by awarding nearly 900 grants. This funding gives students valuable learning tools and resources that would otherwise be unavailable. The resources address growth in fundamental STEM skills such as math, but also encourage innovation in the classrooms, participation in STEM competitions and supporting activities that connect STEM careers to the classroom. 

STEM Fest, the Center’s largest event of the year, reached more than 12,000 junior high and high school students as well as teachers and families. STEM Fest offered exciting hands-on experiences with science and technology industry partners that sparked student’s imaginations and gave them a peek into future career opportunities in Utah. 

The annual STEM Best Practices Conference welcomed nearly 900 STEM educators in FY19 to learn about best practices in STEM education from experts and leaders in the K-16 STEM community. The conference was cancelled for the FY20 due to COVID-19, however we anticipate having it next year for Utah STEM educators. The conference highlights projects from across the state where communities are experiencing success with STEM learning, announces new opportunities for engaging with the STEM Action Center, and provides an opportunity for networking to form new partnerships with other STEM stakeholders. 

One of the major goals of the STEM Action Center is to understand and respond to STEM industry and community needs. The STEM Action Center and its public 501(c)3, the Utah STEM Foundation, work collaboratively to help Utah companies find creative solutions to support STEM education. The STEM AC leverages industry resources and support into numerous programs including STEM in Motion, K-16 Computing Partnerships and STEM Fest. 

The STEM Action Center began an intensive strategic planning process during FY20. The plan incorporates a comprehensive review of stakeholder input that is resulting from numerous focus groups and community surveys. The feedback will inform the next 3-5 years of the Center and ensures that it continues to optimize its unique role in providing innovative, high quality STEM resources to classrooms, educators and the community.

The Utah STEM Action Center has a commitment to accountability, efficiency and high quality. The team at the Center strives to put STEM education resources into the hands of students, educators, parents and our communities through productive partnerships, ensuring that resources are leveraged to support STEM education in Utah.


Other highlights


The STEM Action Center, together with Utah’s STEM industries, showcased exciting STEM career paths in our 5th annual statewide STEM Fest, which took place on October 6th and 7th, 2019 at the Mountain America Expo Center.

The event also featured a family night, which drew approximately 6,000 Utahns, including professionals, post-secondary students, families, and children of all ages. Just under 100 sponsors from industry, government and higher education offered hands-on learning exhibits at STEM Fest and more than 12,000 students from schools statewide attended the event.

STEM Fest was made possible through corporate donations to cover the cost of the event, allowing the STEM Action Center to focus support on scholarships to support transportation for schools outside the Wasatch Front; some schools came from areas more than 300 miles away to attend this event.

Artifacts & Arts Center
STEM In Motion

The STEM in Motion Program brings exciting activities and resources to schools and communities all across Utah. The newly rebranded program  highlights the program’s expansion of opportunities and experiences. The outcomes from a SIM experience include increased student engagement and enthusiasm for STEM activities, increased teacher awareness of STEM education, and increased industry investment in STEM. The curricula provides experiential, real-world, project-based learning opportunities for  students. Previously, the SIM Team took curricula directly to classrooms, exploring a range of STEM topics from robotics and space exploration to ecology and renewable energy.

With the changing needs and safety measures of schools across Utah, these curricula were adapted to blended and virtual models. Teachers can now check out curriculum kits for two week periods, and receive interactive virtual introductions with the SIM team, follow-up and exploratory activities, video content, career connections and more. These kits are delivered and collected free of charge. The new model allows resources to reach more classrooms per school, and more schools per year, broadening the impact of the SIM program across the state. Last year in FY19, we were scheduled to go to 68 schools, and due to the pandemic, visited a total of 47 schools. With our new SIM Curriculum Kits, we have already scheduled 63 schools to receive kits, and are getting new sign ups every day. Additionally, these sign ups include schools from 22 school districts.


PPE Partnership

Makers around Utah are uniting to produce critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in response to COVID protection needs. The STEM Action Center has helped to bring together school districts, industry partners, and local makers to produce 3D printed face shield headpieces.One of the major partners in this project is Utah COVID-19 PPE Makers, a grassroots organization that has supplied local hospitals and first responders with Prusa face shields. Jonathan House, founder of Utah COVID-19 PPE Makers has been pulling together groups and individuals around the state to contribute to this effort.

Micron Technologies, a key industry partner on this project, has been producing and donating more than 1,000 masks each week. In addition to their production contribution, Micron Technologies had made a generous $20,000 donation to the Utah STEM Foundation to support ongoing printing of personal protection equipment. Micron Technologies’ commitment to this initiative helps to ensure Utah meets its goal of producing 10,000 face shields for medical professionals.


Performance Measures

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Number of students supported with personalized math program.


Total number of students participating in the STEM Action Center computing partnership program (grant-based work learning, high school interships).


Number of schools and students with access to ATEM Action Center computing resources.


Total number of students participating in the Stem Action Center computing partnership program (outreach and engagement).


Number of educators directly impacted by STEM professional learning opportunities.


Total number of students participating in STEM In Motion programs.


Percentage of rural school districts impacted by STEM In Motion program.


Total number of school districts participating in STEM In Motion programs.


Budget & Programs

The Utah STEM Action Center administration supports a team of 13 that oversee numerous programs that include improving basic skills in STEM (e.g., math), ensuring that Utah educators excel at STEM instruction, providing outreach and engagement opportunities, and connecting industry and business to the classroom. The Center has a strong commitment to promoting STEM education in Utah through a robust communication and social networking strategy. The STEM Action Center also oversees the Utah STEM Foundation, a public 501(c)3 that supports activities that align to the vision and mission of the Center. The administrative budget has supported micro-grants to educators and students to promote innovation of STEM in the classroom. The Utah STEM Action Center has strived over the past seven years to create a diverse funding portfolio to leverage and optimize resources to support Utah students, educators and communities.

Industry Engagement

The STEM Action Center plays a unique role for STEM education with a statutory mandate to engage industry in STEM education efforts. The Center works with industry in a variety of ways including the Utah STEM Foundation, and priority programs that focus on supporting the vision and mission of the STEM Action Center. The annual STEM Fest is an exciting and engaging way for students to interact with industry professionals with hands-on experiences that showcase innovation and technology of Utah companies and universities. The Center has a commitment to integrate industry partners into projects whenever possible and appropriate. For example, the Computing Partnership program and Girls Who Code Club Entrepreneurial Challenge have a focus on working with industry partners. 

Foundational STEM 

It is critical to support student success in foundational STEM skills. Math is critical to ensuring that students feel comfortable pursuing STEM education and career pathways. Their early success in math will impact their future success in STEM careers, and even more importantly influence their level of comfort  and decisions to pursue STEM education and career options. The STEM Action Center has developed and overseen the Digital Personalized Math program and reported positive gains for student proficiency and growth. The Center is working with partners to extend its support of math with several Early Math programs and the Math Mentors program. The Center also supports the Computing Partnerships program that provides resources for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to build out their Computer Science and Information Technology opportunities. The STEM Action Center recognizes that student success does not happen in a vacuum. The quality of the classroom experience is dependent upon the preparation of the educator to provide engaging, effective instruction. The Center has supported grants to LEAs to develop a strategic plan for high quality professional learning in STEM for educators. By supporting these projects, focusing on LEA-identified gaps and LEA-designed solutions, educators are able to develop STEM content knowledge and instructional strategies that make their learning environments more appropriate for STEM learning. 

Outreach, Engagement and Innovation 

The STEM Action Center is committed to creating greater awareness for the importance of STEM education and careers. The Center focuses on activities that get students excited about STEM and nurture their love to explore, create and innovate. The Innovation Incubator micro-grants provide resources directly to educators to innovate new learning strategies in their classroom. The STEM Magic Show is a fun, educational program that lends itself to larger, assembly-based gatherings for elementary students.

The Center works to share promising and best practices in STEM education with educators and parents through the annual STEM Best Practices, STEM Fest and the Utah STEM Network. The STEM School Designation Program supports schools who desire to integrate STEM across all disciplines and create a sustainable culture of “STEM thinking, learning and doing.” 

Equity, Inclusion and Access

The STEM in Motion (SIM) program is the Center’s mobile STEM program that increases access to all students and educators across the state. The SIM program brings hands-on STEM activities to rural and urban communities, providing access for those students and schools that lack sufficient resources. The SIM program provides online instruction and training for educators and leaves resources in the schools to continue ongoing support of STEM education. The SIM team recently adapted all of their in person activities to a blended model, with kits and online training for educators. The STEM Action Center oversees programs that focus on encouraging young girls and women to pursue STEM education and career opportunities. The Girls Who Code Club Network supports numerous out of classroom coding programs, as well as an annual entrepreneurial challenge. The Center has piloted, and is now looking to scale, a highly successful STEM Micro-Messaging workshop for educators. This program helps educators understand how unintentional body language and subtle messages can discourage underserved and underrepresented students in STEM from interest in STEM opportunities.

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