Innovation Learning Pathways

(Ages 13 and older)

Program overview

Our Innovation Learning Pathways (ILP) program is designed for motivated students that desire an opportunity to explore advanced STEM concepts while developing their ability to formulate and defend their own ideas. By supporting these individuals with the proper community and mentoring, our goal is to help them nurture their potential for innovative thinking.

Critical Thinking

Exposure to topics and scientific research explored through Socratic discussions


Problem solving and experimental design exercises


All participants write position papers and prepare a final presentation


Group exercises and peer feedback on individual assignments and presentations

The program is offered over 12 weeks during the semester where students meet every Monday with peers and a facilitator for two hours. The weekly session agendas vary, but typically revolve around discussing and critiquing ideas from readings and assignments. In addition to the sessions, students have weekly assignments that may consist of (depending upon the week):

  • Reading a book chapter or set of articles and preparing notes / ideas for discussion
  • Idea and argument development related research
  • Writing / Drafting position papers 
  • Writing / Drafting presentations
  • Conducting peer review of deliverables from other students

At the end of each semester, facilitators may select exemplary student work to be showcased on our website and other channels as a benefit for our students.

Spring 2020: Why did my brain make me do that?


Why did the human cross the road? Is it because of how their brain is wired? Or perhaps some artifact of thousands of years of evolution that is presenting itself as an emergent phenomenon? Or maybe it was simply a need to grab a habitual jolt of energy from the Starbucks on the corner? This semester we’ll be exploring various questions and scientific topics through the lens of human behavior. Why do we do what we do, and perhaps more interestingly, how confident can we be of any answer to that question?


Every semester we’ll identify a topically aligned book for a subset of our reading assignments. While the prescribed assignments will only cover selected chapters, students will receive a copy and are encouraged to complete the book in its entirety.  This fall we’ll review selected chapters of Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst.

Expected Areas of Exploration

  • Basics of neuroscience
  • Hormones and how they impact our decision making
  • Tribalism and xenophobia
  • The role of evolution in behavior
  • Free will

Key Dates and Costs

  • Program session dates: From February 10th (first session) to April 27th (last session) 
  • Program session times: Every Monday evening 7pm-9pm (US Central Time)
  • Applications open: December 9th, 2019
  • Application deadline: January 31st, 2020
  • Program cost: $450 / student (partial scholarships available based on financial need)

Eligibility and Guidelines

Location - World

The ILP program is delivered through virtual interactions (video conferences, online chat, etc.), so any student that can attend the designated meeting times is eligible to participate.

Ages 13 and older

Applicants should, in general, be at least 13 years old for the program. Younger students may be considered for exceptional cases.

Computer and Internet

Students will require access to a computer with a video camera and Internet connectivity to attend virtual sessions and work on assignments.


Attendance policy

Students must plan to attend all 12 sessions. Accepted participants that miss more than one session may be dismissed without refund at the discretion of program facilitators.


Participation policy

Given our emphasis on discussion to help critique and refine ideas, it is imperative that all students arrive to sessions ready to participate and without distractions. Students with consistently poor participation levels may be dismissed without refund at the discretion of program facilitators.

Program Philosophy:

Big Ideas for Big Thinkers

Our Innovation Learning Pathways (ILP) program strives to provide a forum where students 1) creatively apply their existing knowledge and 2) identify new individualized learning goals through an inquiry-driven process that directs them to think about the “big” problems they’ll be working to solve in their future. The benefit of this approach is that it allows students to see the forest for the trees and obtain clarity around how potential STEM career directions intersect with what problems they’ll choose to engage and why that’s relevant to them personally. By meeting them at this intersection of “how”, “what”, and “why”, we hope to develop a long-lasting foundation that students can build upon for years to come.

While each semester will focus on a defined topic area for exploration, in general our selected topics, readings, and vectors of inquiry will touch on one or more of four key themes:

Where we live

Ecology and sustainability on Earth and beyond

Who we are

The engineered human (artificial intelligence and biotechnology)

How we interconnect

Neuro-(science / biology / psychology) and evolutionary biology as it applies to human collaboration

What our reality entails

Space, time, and scientific skepticism at large

Application Process

The ILP application consists of three steps: 1) Completing an online application form; 2) Submitting a writing assignment based upon a provided prompt; 3) Attending an interview where applicants will defend the ideas submitted in their writing submission. The interview will also provide an opportunity for applicants to ask any specific questions they may have about the program. Students should note that the application deadline includes completing all three items and should plan accordingly.


Step 1

Submit basic application form


Step 2

Complete writing assignment emailed to you after your application form is received


Step 3

Attend interview session over video conference

Begin the first step of your application today

Remember: Plan to begin your application in time to complete the entire process by the deadline

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I need to purchase any specific materials or textbooks?

No. Any additional materials including the selected book are included in the program fee and will be mailed to you.

What kind of time commitment does the ILP program require?

This is always a difficult question to answer, particularly since in our experience a student’s productivity is only loosely correlated to time. As a rough guideline, you should plan to spend (on average) 4-5 hours per week in addition to the weekly 2 hour session on assignments and research. In general, if the program topic and approach don’t sound interesting enough to be a priority in your schedule, this may not be a good fit for you.

Will I be working on assignments alone or in a group?

You will work on at least one assignment individually and one in a group, though in general you can expect to interact with your peers consistently throughout the semester (see our note on participation policy)

I’m not a strong writer or communicator, so is this program for me?

Yes. In fact, if you’re someone that thinks of themselves as being strong in math or science but weak as a communicator, the ILP program is designed to help you grow your skills so that you’re better equipped to advocate for your ideas today and in the future.

I’m not 13 yet, but I’m very interested in the ILP program. Can I still apply?

Ages are simply a pragmatic shortcut to signal an expectation for students and parents. The fact is there are some 14 year olds that may not be ready for our program and some 12 year olds that would excel. If our program speaks to you and you can contribute to the group, we’d love to review your application materials and speak with you!


While the ILP program covered the topic of sustainable energy in depth, it simultaneously enabled students to learn collaboration and time-management skills. Those skills are practiced and put to use in this program, and are useful tools to use in the future. I would highly recommend the ILP program!


ILP Student

STEMed Labs is a very immersive experience that allows a student to develop their writing and presentation skills. It helps students gain more experience dealing with real world issues, while also developing social skills when communicating with their partners.

ILP Student

I really enjoyed the ILP program as it was an experience in which I not only learned about energy but also how to think properly. As we progressed through the program, my analytical abilities, in my opinion, improved as I had to look at things on both smaller scales and larger scales. I looked at energy powering one house and I looked at a type of energy potenially powering the entire planet. As a result, I was able to expand on my knowledge but also my skills.


ILP Student

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