Designed to bring the support of a research university and STEM professionals to rural teachers, students, and school districts.
To tackle the educational disadvantages of rural students, the Aspirnaut™ K-20 STEM Pipeline was designed as an integrated set of STEM educational interventions from Vanderbilt University to rural schools. The program complements the existing activities in public schools. Engagement with Aspirnaut™ can begin with a student as early as their elementary years and continue to support them into post-secondary training and ultimately into a STEM profession. The goal is to increase STEM achievement and increase the number and diversity of students entering the STEM workforce (illustrated below). It is anticipated that this partnership model can be replicated by other research universities.
1. Beaming STEM Labs – Videoconferencing Weekly Science Labs
Starting with a collaboration with Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS), which has over 16 years of experience in presenting science lessons to students in urban schools, Aspirnaut™ extended the model by using videoconferencing technology to beam real-world science to rural students across thousands of miles.
2. Summer Research Internships
During the summer, high school and undergraduate students are offered the opportunity to work in a variety of research laboratories at Vanderbilt University. This science “boot camp” exposes students not only to world-class research but also to people and professionals that can help the student build a foundation for a successful STEM future.
3. Accelerated/AP Online Courses and Dual Enrollment
The Aspirnaut™ program provides online STEM courses to selected students through Aventa learning. Course offerings are for students in grades 6-12 and provide them all the resources they need in order to excel–including an online teacher with whom the student can communicate. Aspirnaut™ and Aventa work with school districts, colleges and universities within the student’s state to provide dual enrollment or credit for these STEM courses.
4. College Guidance
Aspirnaut™ students, teachers, and parents have access to admissions and financial aid counselors to help demystify the college application and finance process. Students and teachers also interact with those working in STEM careers including university professors, science and math professionals in industry, retired teachers, and undergraduate/graduate students. These mentors can offer guidance both virtually and in person.
5. Individual Career Development and Mentorship
Students have access to one-on-one career mapping and planning sessions with Aspirnaut™ leaders. This engagement with students is intended to be ongoing and lifelong.