SHARONVILLE— To infinity and beyond.
So says the famous (fictional) astronaut Buzz Lightyear.
But at iSPACE in Sharonville, outside of Cincinnati, that's a good way to describe the message being given to students.
- Serves around 30,000 students each year
- iSPACE focuses lessons based on student's grade level and state curriculum
- STEM careers continue to outgrow non-STEM careers
iSPACE is a non-profit organization that focuses on STEM careers: science, technology, education, and mathematics.
They serve students of all ages, and programs are tailored to fit into a teacher's lesson plans.
Every iSPACE lesson is designed to meet Ohio education standards.
ISPACE started 18 years ago and serves more than 30,000 students every year.
“And we do that through interactive, hands-on programs that really let the kids do what they would do in those career fields,” said Sue Williams, iSPACE executive director. “So our objective is to get them excited enough that they go on to be scientists and engineers.”
Williams spent 28 years with Proctor and Gamble as an engineer. She know's first hand what a STEM career can provide.
She also knows as a woman, not much has changed to attract young women into STEM careers.
The entire staff at iSPACE is women, coincidentally.
“We are definitely making it a focus to get girls more interested. And what we're learning is it's partially interesting to them and it's also giving them confidence they can do it," said Williams. "So, we will often run all-girl programs so that they are in an environment where they're not intimated by I should let the boy answer or let someone else take the lead.”
On average, STEM-based entry-level careers pay about 26 percent more than a non-STEM career.
STEM jobs are expected to continue outpacing non-STEM jobs until 2024 – and research suggests it will continue far beyond that.
Some of the most in-demand jobs in the U.S. are STEM-based: mathematicians, computer programming, software designers, etc.
iSPACE doesn't just focus on the off-earth education.
Each lesson is geared towards the age group. Some focus on forensics and others use food or sound. Third-graders don't do experiments that a sixth-grader might do.
“Space is a great theme because it brings in all of the technologies,” said Williams. “In space, you've got the chemistry aspect, physics, computers, and technology... so it allows us to run simulations where we can create a real-work experience for the kids and they're doing jobs in those fields.”
Recently, iSPACE began using grants to allow low-income schools to visit their site.
Williams said it's rewarding for her group because those students may never get exposed to STEM-based learning otherwise.
iSPACE does charge a fee for schools and is largely funded through community and corporate partnerships.