People in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) careers help fuel innovations vital to improving people’s quality of life, spurring economic growth and expanding the nation’s technological advances.
NIFA is committed to developing a STEM workforce that is representative of current and projected demographics in America. A diverse workforce will drive the continued success of both agriculture and the U.S. economy as well as serving the nation’s many varied communities. NIFA supports this future workforce through specialized partnerships and programs that build institutional capacity, facilitate access to higher education and provide experiential learning opportunities in the community.
A number of NIFA programs provide critical support to the nation’s 1890 Land-grant Colleges and Universities as they work to bolster the diversity of the nation’s STEM workforce. They include:
Supported by NIFA, the nation’s 1890 Land-grant Colleges and Universities are working to interest more young people, and in particular, young people of color in STEM careers.
Alcorn State University in Mississippi conducted three two-day National 4-H STEM Challenge camps titled “Explorers of the Deep.” Held in elementary, middle and high schools in southwest Mississippi, the camps focused on the mysteries and adventures of ocean exploration. More than 950 young people developed inquiry, observational and problem-solving skills while they made discoveries and discovered their own STEM identities.
Thanks to North Carolina A&T State University, 16 young people attended NASA Space Camp in 2022 after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic. Held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, these week-long camps give youth the chance to learn robotics, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking skills and experience real-world STEM applications.
A 4-H Stem Festival hosted by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore used interactive activities to get youths involved. Aimed at getting youth K-12 interested in STEM, the free event drew 116 participants and their family members. Participants looked at zooplankton through a microscope, operated remote controlled sphere robots and VEX robots, explored nutrition by making a smoothie on a blender bike, among other hands-on activities.
In 2022, more than 3,000 youths from 31 school districts attended Virtual STEM Day sponsored by Alabama A&M University. Youth were introduced to the engineering design process and created catapults that accurately and consistently launched a projectile into a target or as far away as possible. In addition, a Mobile STEM Lab introduces youth ages 5 to 18 to real-world and hands-on learning experiences. These initiatives allow the 4-H team to not only reach underserved youth, but to inspire the next generation of scientists and technology experts.
West Virginia State University 4-H’s Sowing Young Sprouts (SYS) program combines inquiry-based science, real-world technology and outdoor education to teach elementary students to become problem-solvers and live a sustainable lifestyle while learning about natural sciences and entrepreneurship. Additionally, SYS recently launched an at-home career discovery kit project for children aged 10-12 years old that is available in four counties. Participants receive hands-on activities and learning resources via mail, allowing them to explore different careers in agriculture and science.
NIFA’s Division of Youth and 4-H supports these and other programs at the 1890 Land-grant institutions as well as at other Land-grant Colleges and Universities. Learn more about the Division of Youth and 4-H's work here.
Top image: Elementary school students performing scientific experiment. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.