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Iowa Districts Get STEM Grants for Cyber, Industrial Tech

Funds from the Governor's STEM Advisory Council will go toward cybersecurity and computer science programs at Waterloo Career Center, and industrial technology at Dike-New Hartford Community School District.

A diagram showing the different branches of STEM study.
(TNS) — Two Cedar Valley school districts are among 38 recipients across the state of STEM BEST grants that will be used to create or expand programs in high demand career fields.

Grants of $40,000 for both Waterloo and Dike-New Hartford community schools were announced last week by the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, based at the University of Northern Iowa. STEM aims to prepare students for careers that use science, technology, engineering and mathematics. BEST stands for Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers.

The Waterloo Career Center sought the funds for its cybersecurity and computer science programs, the CyberPatriot after-school club, and the enhancement of hands-on learning provided by business partners.

"This will give us an opportunity to grow that program and grow opportunities for student engagement, (plus) a variety of curriculum software needs in that area," Amy Miehe, career center administrator, told the Board of Education Monday. "We're very excited about this."

Dike-New Hartford Schools will upgrade equipment in its industrial technology department and start a new class.

"The class will be called product development enterprise," Lane Stahlberg, a district industrial technology teacher, said in an interview. With the help of new and upgraded equipment, students will create made-to order products of metal, wood, glass and leather that are marketed to the community.

Grants were awarded through the advisory council's STEM BEST H.D. (High Demand) Program. It is designed to prepare students for the workforce through curriculum focused on skills needed in job sectors such as computer science/information technology, healthcare professions and advanced manufacturing, according to a news release.

The program is the result of a special appropriation from the Legislature in 2021 to expand STEM BEST with an emphasis on job sectors that are in high demand. The high demand program will help build partnerships between schools and businesses, allowing educators and industry professionals to work together to develop curriculum and projects that prepare students for careers in these high-demand fields.

"There is clearly a strong interest in building career-linked learning opportunities in these high-demand fields," Jeff Weld, executive director of the advisory council, said in the news release. "This is the highest number of schools who will be named STEM BEST Program models in an application cycle since the program's launch in 2014. We're excited to see how these collaborations throughout the state bring attention to the opportunities and skills needed in these high-demand job sectors."

The high demand program offers a larger grant amount and a lower cost-share requirement for applicants than other STEM BEST awards. Both the Waterloo and Dike-New Hartford grants require the districts to contribute $20,000 towards their costs. The awards can be used for facility upgrades, equipment, time for program planning with partners, travel needs or integrating curriculum into existing courses.

Along with the new class, Dike-New Hartford's plan includes equipment improvements that will allow for advanced welding, computer numerical control machining and laser fabrication. Those purchases will bolster classes Stahlberg teaches, currently at Hawkeye Community College's Western Outreach Center near Holland, and be used in the new class. He said the product development enterprise class also has "hidden goals" of gettings students to work on marketing their products through a website or brochures and communicating with potential customers.

Waterloo Superintendent Jane Lindaman said when the IT program was first started at the career center in 2016, coursework was in web and mobile and networking. Since then, careers in cybersecurity have grown, which is expected to continue. That has caused the career center to shift away from networking.

"I'm really excited we've been able to respond to that need," she said. "To secure this money is really a great thing. It's not the only way we're funding our work around the cybersecurity program. This is just one piece."

For more information on the STEM BEST H.D. Program, go online to

©2022 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.