Discovery Center collaborating on project to create sustainable STEM workforce for South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D.(DRGNews)- The South Dakota Discovery Center based in Pierre is a part of a research collaboration that’s been awarded nearly $8 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

Discovery Center Executive Director Dr. Rhea Waldman says the funding comes from what’s called EPSCoR E-CORE RII (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Collaborations for Optimizing Research Ecosystems Research Infrastructure Improvement Program). She says the full project is led by a team at the Center for Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

Waldman says EPSCoR is a cornerstone of their ability to provide K-12 students and teachers with access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) researchers.

Waldman says having the Tribal educational institutions involved helps engage a large group of students who may not normally have pathways to develop interest in STEM topics and become motivated to work in STEM fields across the state.

Currently, Waldman says the Discovery Center is the only organization in the state that is training scientists to become better science communicators.

The full project is led by a team at CAMSE at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

Waldman says students begin taking STEM classes in elementary school, but most elementary school teachers are not scientists and don’t specialize in teaching STEM topics.

Waldman says the collaboration is also working on ways to connect with learners with different abilities.

Waldman says the project could become a national model for connecting individuals that are geographically isolated to STEM education at the pre-college level and post-secondary education levels.