From science fairs to university collaborations, the Kiwanis family facilitates STEM education and career development. 

By Julie Saetre

STEM programs are crucial to the Kiwanis cause of education and literacy. That’s because science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, are increasingly crucial in society. In the U.S. alone, STEM jobs are projected to grow 10.8% from 2022 to 2032, according to a 2023 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that same period, non-STEM job growth is projected to be only 2.3%.  

Kiwanis and Key Clubs around the world are answering the call. Use these projects for inspiration when you brainstorm with fellow club members about supplementing STEM efforts — and STEAM efforts, which incorporate the arts — in your community. (Need help with funding? The Kiwanis Childrens Fund offers club grants and microgrants.) 

STEAM fair in California, U.S.
The Kiwanis Club of Diamond Bar Young Professionals in California, U.S., partnered with Diamond Bar High School’s Team Sprocket robotics team for their inaugural STEAM Fair in September 2023. Their goal: Encourage elementary and middle school children to become passionate about STEAM studies and pursue future careers in STEAM fields. 

The Kiwanians stocked the school amphitheater with STEAM-related activities, including book giveaways, bookmark crafts, face painting and ZTAG gaming, which uses a wearable electronic device to promote physical and mental exercise centered around movement and communication. Team Sprocket showcased its award-winning projects, and the high school’s Printed Works student-run business demonstrated robots, drones, 3D printing, laser cutting and T-shirt printing. 

The event also included STEAM career and university speakers, who offered insight on STEAM fields and applying for post-high school STEAM majors.

ElevateEd: STEM in Nepal
With a series of code camps and robotics workshops, the Key Club of Kathmandu in Nepal is bringing a practical approach to STEM education into Nepal’s secondary schools. Led by Key Club members and volunteers with expertise in STEM fields, the workshops help students of all backgrounds apply classroom concepts to hands-on projects. In addition to developing vital skills in scientific fields, participants learn teamwork and how to present their projects in exhibitions.  

STEM support in Idaho, U.S.
In January 2024, the Kiwanis Club of Pocatello, Idaho, U.S., added to its ongoing support of Idaho State University’s STEM education efforts. The US$3,000 donation to the university’s physics department helps fund science presentations and activities for students from kindergarten through high school. 

Each year, the department sponsors over 100 science-education events at Idaho libraries, schools, museums and other area locations. Participants learn to code, model, build catapults and water rockets, and more. Pocatello club members volunteer hundreds of service hours to help make these events successful. 

Don Wyckoff, a club member and past president, personally donated US$1,100 to purchase materials for the Haunted Science Laboratory event sponsored by the physics department and the Kiwanis club in October. The lab includes a Van DeGraaf static electricity generator, lasers and interactive science activities. 

Engineering partnership in Virginia, U.S.
The John B. Cary Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., serves children in one of the state’s most educationally underperforming school districts. As many as 90% of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and at one point the school was unaccredited. So the Kiwanis Club of Richmond decided to partner with them. Through this ongoing, years-long effort, Cary has gained accreditation and is now recognized as one of the school system’s best performing schools. 

Among the many programs the Kiwanis club has implemented is a collaboration with the engineering department of Virginia Commonwealth University to emphasize the importance of STEM/STEAM education. In 2019, a US$10,000 grant from the Kiwanis club funded the Kiwanis Distance Learning Lab, which is filled with computers and audio/video equipment to facilitate Zoom meetings between Cary students and VCU engineering professors, students and staff.  

As part of the Distance Learning Lab launch, VCU and the Kiwanis club implemented the Engineering in Vision program, which brings university professors and staff to Cary to conduct STEM activities with students. Engineering in Vision reaches an average of 40 students each session, with approximately 16 sessions per academic year.  

Members of the VCU Engineering team also attend a variety of events at Cary each year, participating in Kiwanis activities such as the annual STEM Night and Career Day. Many parents sign up to stay connected with VCU Engineering, and some of their children maintain relationships with VCU long after elementary school. VCU also encourages school classes to come to the VCU campus — only three miles away — to visit the College of Engineering, exposing students to state-of-the-art engineering innovations.