The NC STEM Center has leveraged its resources with resources on a national scale to create tools needed to allow a centralized database of STEM education programs using The Connectory, a national online database of STEM programs and opportunities. The NC STEM Center is a founding member of STEMx, so we chatted with Dr. Sam Houston and Lisa Rhoades about the partnership and what it means for students and teachers. NC STEM is a program of the NC Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center
What is The Connectory Exchange?
The Connectory Exchange provides partners with the turn-key system of technology, functionality and support to grow a custom directory of local STEM learning opportunities, powered by The Connectory database. The Connectory is the largest database of STEM programs in the U.S. The Connectory Exchange provides software functionality that allows a centralized and searchable database while maintaining what makes each unique. It was developed through a partnership between the NC STEM Center, Time Warner Cable and the National Girls Collaborative.
How has the Connectory Exchange benefitted the NC STEM Center?
In the case of the NC STEM Center, NC-based STEM organizations (museums, afterschool programs, colleges and universities) have worked with NC STEM Center and know that the Center serves as the first stop for parents, students, and educators looking for STEM programs and opportunities. NC STEM will continue to be the go to site for NC-based organizations wanting to share their programs and opportunities. For The Connectory, a multitude of national STEM organizations have relied on The Connectory to spread the word about their STEM opportunities and that won’t change. What is new is that through The Connectory Exchange, NC opportunities listed within the NC STEM Center are also displayed within The Connectory. Additionally, NC-based opportunities listed on The Connectory are displayed within the NC STEM Center.
How is it best used by families? By teachers?
The value of the The Connectory Exchange to families is especially high this time of year. Think about a parent that is sending their child to spend the summer with grandparents in North Carolina. The parent who doesn’t live in NC doesn’t necessarily know about NC STEM Center. But through The Connectory, the parent can find North Carolina STEM opportunities for their child.
The value for teachers comes in the form of being aware of what STEM programs and opportunities exists and perhaps which programs may be suggested to parents and to students for greater enrichment and exposure to certain topics or careers. The Connectory Exchange also provides teachers with the information needed to find opportunities for their students to continue their learning after they leave the classroom, in order to help the students grasp the relevance of subject matter while also reinforcing what they learned in school. Events and opportunities in themselves could be considered to be a “field trip” in comparison.
What are the highest hopes for The Connectory Exchange in the coming years?
Our highest hope for The Connectory Exchange is to make it seamless for parents, educators, students, anybody to find STEM opportunities anywhere at anytime on any device while eliminating as much as possible, potential duplicate efforts on the part of STEM organizations. If we can create a system that allows a STEM museum for example to go to the STEMx member website in their state and input program details or opportunities that will populate not only within the statewide database but also the national Connectory database, think how much more reach can be achieved with no extra effort on the part of the museum.
What value can partnering with The Connectory be to other STEMx members?
The Connectory Exchange provides cost savings and avoidance based on the leveraging of prior investments and piloting. It prevents multiple data entry points and supports continuity and an enterprise approach to addressing common needs. With the development of the Connectory Exchange in NC, other states have a roadmap for a locally branded solution while using the power of The Connectory.
We see value from the shared data exchange described above but also from the ability to replicate what The Connectory and NC STEM Center have done without having to start from scratch. NC STEM Center and our partner, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund as well as The Connectory, National Girls Collaborative, Time Warner Cable and the Noyce Foundation have invested a significant amount of money and time in developing the Connectory Exchange. The good news is that STEMx members don’t have to recreate the wheel. If a STEMx member has an existing WordPress website or is considering migrating to one, they can license the plugin that allows a localized database to exchange data with The Connectory. If a STEMx member doesn’t have a website, they can license the framework of the NC STEM site and the plugin to get up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to begin full planning and development.
How can STEMx members learn more about being part of the Connectory Exchange?
If there is interest by the STEMx community, the NC STEM Center and The Connectory can provide a demo of the collaboration via a webinar. The Clinton Global Initiative – America is seeking to highlight the Connectory Exchange during a scheduled June meeting. North Carolina’s completion of the Connectory Exchange model will be shared as a best practice and prospective project for other communities to consider implementing. Because NC STEM is a member of the STEMx community and other states are serving as somewhat of an aggregator of STEM initiatives within each of their respective states, we’re seeking to collaborate with the STEMx community initially.