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Guest Blogger Andrew Black: Indiana Organizations Partner to Launch NASA Ignite! STEM Education Program in Summer and Afterschool Programs

By Guest Blogger

Evidence is clear that developing proficiency in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines are critical for preparing our students for success in school, college, careers and life.  Studies estimate that nearly 62 percent of today’s jobs require skills in math and science, and 80 percent of future jobs and careers will require a workforce that is literate and proficient in STEM fields.  Although Indiana is blessed with a rich array of STEM-related resources and expertise, projections suggest that over the next decade there will be more than 10,000 job openings that will go unfilled for a lack of qualified applicants. 

To address the STEM deficit, the Indiana Afterschool Network (IAN), Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), WisdomTools Inc., and Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) have partnered to launch NASA Ignite!, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education program to provide quality STEM education activities in summer and out-of-school time program settings. 
One of nine nationwide awardees for NASA’s Summer of Innovation (SoI) program, NASA Ignite! uses innovative, standards-based NASA curriculum, integrated with space-themed computer games and an exciting e-mentoring program to inspire, engage and motivate middle school students to learn about STEM topics and careers. The NASA Ignite! program will:
  • Deliver a minimum of 40 hours of NASA SoI content to students each summer.
  • Deliver a minimum of 25 additional hours of NASA STEM content afterschool each school year.
  • Integrate innovative technologies such as video games to engage students.
  • Improve afterschool standards and quality set by Indiana Afterschool Network.
  • Involve at least 600 teachers and afterschool educators in the delivery of content to students and sustained professional development opportunities.
  • Engage at least 10,000 middle school students who attend Indiana's 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) as well as other out-of-school-time program providers.
The NASA Ignite! curriculum includes Forces and Motion, Rocketry/Aeronautics, Robotics, Moon-Earth System, Planetology/Astrobiology, Survival, Exploration and Design Challenges. In addition, space-themed computer games are integrated with the NASA materials to engage students in ways that get at systems thinking in STEM.
Starting this fall, another unique component will be added to NASA Ignite! in the form of an e-mentoring program.  The e-mentoring program will connect students with real NASA professionals and local STEM stakeholders to help strengthen learning outcomes, cultivate continued interest in STEM topics, and encourage the exploration of STEM careers.  Additionally, these STEM professional mentors will provide students with valuable role models and insights often lacking in traditional educational settings. 
NASA Ignite! currently includes over 15 cities across the state of Indiana, and over the next four years will reach 10,000 of Indiana’s children and 600 teachers, as well as be expanded to other states.  While the program is available for all summer and afterschool programs, a key partner is the IDOE’s 21st CCLC program, which serves students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools around the state.
To learn more about the NASA Ignite! program, and the possibility of bringing it to your state, please email Andrew Black at, or visit the Ignite! website at


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learn more about: NASA Science State Networks