Encouraging Middle School Students to Step Into STEM


TRTF CAO and CISSA Site Coordinator



Encouraging Middle School Students to Step Into STEM



By Jessica L. Harris

Step Into STEM is a unique career awareness program that inspires middle school students to choose an education focused on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics to prepare for future STEM careers. A STEM education is an empowering interdisciplinary approach that generates lifelong career opportunities.

An estimated 1,000 biotech-related jobs are expected to be created in San Antonio over the next five years. To meet this need, the Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF) forged a partnership with Communities in Schools of San Antonio (CIS-SA) to prepare the next generation of employees in biosciences and technology.

In 2021, the Step into STEM program provided two middle schools in San Antonio’s near east side with an opportunity to participate in stimulating activities to enhance career awareness, including in-class science lessons, full-day science workshops, and STEM family nights. The program was a success and reached over 1,100 students.

TRTF continued its partnership with CIS-SA in 2022 and scaled the program with a goal of increasing the participation to over 6,000 students in over 50 schools across the San Antonio area.



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The 2022 Career Awareness Program includes:

• STEM Career Toolkits: classroom activities designed to integrate STEM lessons with career awareness, including USB microscope activity, hydraulic robotic claw activity, STEM career BINGO game, classroom posters, and stickers with a QR code linking to the Step into STEM Instagram account highlighting local STEM career professionals through videos and photos.
• STEM Workshops: hands-on STEM learning activities and on-site career mentoring opportunities, including a bioengineering activity to design a robotic hand, a biosciences lab experiment to extract DNA, a tour of the innovation center, and a leadership luncheon speaker.
• STEM Family Nights: events for the entire school to experience hands-on activities and provide parents the opportunity to work with their children to launch rockets, program robots, explore with microscopes, and more.
Step Into STEM seeks to build a skilled workforce in the San Antonio region by inspiring middle school students from economically disadvantaged schools to engage in a STEM education and meet the demand for highly skilled STEM professionals in San Antonio.



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The goal of Step into STEM is to expand its reach to include more middle school students and follow them through high school and beyond. The success of Step Into STEM is made possible through generous donors, partners, and sponsors. To become a STEM supporter, contact Jessica Harris, TRTF Chief Administrative Officer, at jharris@trtf-id.org.



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The Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF) is a visionary economic development generator investing and leading a transformative Innovation Hub redevelopment in the near east side of San Antonio. Fueled by the emerging biosciences ecosystem, the redevelopment includes the historic Merchants Ice and Cold Storage Complex and Sutton Property located on the twelve-acre property owned by TRTF. The idea is to create a campus woven with the existing neighborhood, which hosts companies and start-ups in the bioscience and technology industry and researchers in military medicine. The Innovation Hub currently houses companies specializing in the biosciences, including Scorpion Biological Services, a gene-therapy company, and GenCure, a bio-manufacturing company specializing in stem cell research. TRTF recently launched the construction of the Co-Labs, the region’s first-ever shared laboratory facility.


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TRTF’s mission includes encouraging education in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—in underserved areas of the community. The larger vision is to evolve the twelve-acre Innovation Hub into a much larger Innovation District, elevating the quality of life for San Antonio residents by advancing the bioscience and technology industry sectors by attracting new businesses, retaining and expanding existing businesses, creating workforce opportunities, and fostering the entrepreneurs of today and future generations.

TRTF is a champion for delivering sustainable economic and community growth, connecting, developing, and funding innovative ventures that enhance our bioscience and technology ecosystem.
For more information, visit texasresearchfoundation.com

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