The STEMed Labs Way

Understanding our programs

Our Core Mission – Preparing Students to be innovators

We all want our students to be innovative, and to empower them to bring their ideas to reality. However, it’s unclear how we’re preparing them for that end goal today in a traditional education paradigm that often emphasizes structure and antiquated metrics. At STEMed Labs, we believe that while a strong understanding of STEM fundamentals is important, it takes more than just academic excellence as measured on paper to provide students with the confidence, independence, and audacity to become the thought leaders of tomorrow.

Defining the innovator

Upon hearing the word “innovator,” students often conjure up images of well-known individuals such as Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. With this frame of reference, there’s often a misconception that only a rare handful within a generation are capable of becoming innovators. However, another way to define an innovator is someone who, when faced with a difficult problem from which 90% of others turn away, marches forward to blaze a new path regardless of the unknowns and inherent risks in order to translate an idea into reality. We believe that this isn’t an innate quality, but instead a mindset that students can obtain through solid, tangible experiences that combine learning, application, and a continuous exposure to exploring the unknown.

Understand the innovator’s chasm

There is an inherent chasm that plagues many would-be innovators. It discourages people from taking their bright spark of an idea and converting it into reality. It prevents thought-to-action because when faced with the prospect of going down a path that isn’t predefined, many simply turn away. To understand this chasm, we can consider the Diffusion of Innovations theory that is commonly used to illustrate how innovative ideas and products are consumed by society. The theory states that to be successful, new ideas must progress through multiple stages of adoption. Innovators in this context are those who are open to the new ideas even before the earliest adopters. The most critical juncture for an innovative idea is when it must “cross the chasm” between early adopters and the early majority of the population. Only then does it have a chance of spreading and achieving widespread adoption.

We’ve realized that the same model that explains how innovation spreads can be used to articulate the chasm over which we must guide our students to empower them to become self-enabled innovators. The consumption of innovation is completed by covering the entire personality spectrum, from early adopters through laggards. The creation of innovation is achieved by covering the entire knowledge spectrum which begins with concepts that schools have been teaching for decades and often test against, to the bleeding edge of STEM ideas and their applications toward solving real-world problems.

Crossing the chasm with our programs

To innovate in STEM, it takes foundational knowledge as well as the hands-on experience of applying that information in novel ways to attempt to solve tangible problems. Fostering an openness to new ideas while exposing students to the organic process of understanding how to leverage emerging technologies and scientific capabilities requires an active “doing” versus “listening.” Our program offerings have been developed with this in mind.

Lab programs: At STEMed Labs, we believe that the experience many students obtain during the normal school day can only help them get so far. In many cases, students are missing the thirst and desire to learn the foundational, rigorous concepts necessary to be a STEM innovator. Our Lab programs are designed to help students address this gap.

ILP programs: To “cross the chasm” necessary to become innovators, students need to augment their foundational knowledge with the evolving skills necessary to put things into practice. Working to solve a problem in class with a known solution is fundamentally different than the open-ended nature of real projects. Our Innovation Learning Pathways (ILP) programs are designed to give students hands-on experience with these additional challenges with the support of coaching and mentoring. Going through the experience of navigating open-ended projects by framing the problems that need addressing and filling in their missing knowledge, students realize that innovation isn’t something you’re simply born with or not, but a muscle that can be trained and strengthened.

The first step begins, simply, with the decision to not turn away from the challenge.

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