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3 Exciting Things: STEM Afterschool in Alabama

Just last week, the Science Coalition honored U.S. Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama as a "Champion of Science" for his work to support funding for science research. Many people might not be aware of the many STEM industries operating in his state. From the aerospace industry in Huntsville, to the ever-expanding health care sector in Birmingham, to the new Air Bus production facility in Mobile, Alabama has a lot of STEM investment!

I'm excited that afterschool leaders in Alabama are working hard to capitalize on that economic momentum as they expand their STEM efforts. I reached out to Paul Morin, Director of the Alabama Afterschool Community Network (ALACN), to share with me the three most exciting things happening in STEM afterschool in his state. Here's what he had to say:

• ALACN recently co-sponsored a statewide STEM Education Business Forum in collaboration with the Alabama Community Education Association; Alabama Math, Science, Technology, Engineering Coalition; and the A+ Education Partnership. Business leaders—Boeing, NASA, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Alabama Power and others—engaged in a discourse and discussion with educational professionals from the K-12 sector, out-of-school programming, career and technical education, and higher education (community college and university systems). The primary focus was greater STEM engagement at all levels to further develop and improve Alabama's pipeline into viable workforce development. More than 250 people attended!

• In coordination with the aforementioned STEM Education Business Forum, ALACN co-sponsored and facilitated the annual statewide Out-of-School Conference with the Alabama Community Education Association (ACEA). The event hosted superintendents, principals, teachers, program directors, and program staff for the sole purpose of generating increased awareness regarding the significant demand for quality out-of-school programming. NASA, Camp Invention, and numerous partners from the STEM-related disciplines conducted sessions for the more than 350 attendees. Professional Learning Unit credits were attainable for the first time in ACEA's fifty-plus-year history to heighten professional standards related to the out-of-school arena.

• ALACN facilitated the launch of the Zero Robotics Middle School program in Alabama. A summer STEM initiative sponsored and made available through the collaborative efforts of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), NASA, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the Marshall Space and Rocket Center, the competition culminates with a live, interactive session of the students' programming and accomplishments being uploaded, critiqued and judged by the astronauts on the International Space Station.

Paul also shared that they are beginning a mapping project to have a better idea of STEM initiatives in out-of-school across the state to identify key successes and primary areas of opportunity.

With all of this great STEM work happening in afterschool programs, it sounds like Sen. Shelby isn't the only Champion of Science in Alabama!

Written by Gina Warner, President and CEO, National Afterschool Association.

Photo courtesy of Huntsville/Madison County CVB.