International Association for STEM Leaders is identifying the top STEM leaders from around the world

For Immediate Release: International Association for STEM Leaders is identifying the top STEM leaders from around the world, showcasing their leadership of STEM programs through awards, a STEMdaily video documentary series, and working with them on developing an international STEM certification framework that is field-driven, industry-based and globally recognized.


Beginning in June of 2012, coinciding with the launch of the inaugural U.S. News and World Report STEM Leadership Summit held in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Carole Cameron Inge and several of her longtime colleagues began to develop a gap analysis of the STEM movement. At that time, the STEM movement focused on the need for more STEM activities to create better pipelines for students into STEM fields. Similar to the start of the career readiness movement, there was more chaos than direction. After a careful review, the team concluded there remains no common language and understanding about what STEM excellence looks like at the classroom, school building, school district, philanthropic, or nontraditional education levels. The national stage seemed to lack unity, and the programs that were then being started had a slant toward education policy, which rarely impacts the local and regional levels without time, major national legislation with appropriations, and support from the Executive Office of the President or from state by state legislative and gubernatorial bodies – a long process for a critical issue such as STEM. STEM education has a timeline and STEM solutions need to be quickly identified and brought to the forefront of the movement.

More than three years has gone into assessing the business models of the STEM outreach communities. Prospective partner services and corresponding financial models have been systematically gathered and analyzed by a team of professional educators, both with preK-12 district leadership experience, higher education outreach experience, significant non-profit experience, and state and federal government experience, to include the U.S. Department of Education and NASA education. A new business model for STEM outreach began to take shape more than two years ago, and after the second U.S. News and World Report Leadership Summit, the understanding of what is missing in the STEM community became clearer.

The STEM community needs a detailed understanding of STEM education models that are working, who is designing them, and who is leading them. There needs to be a laser focus on student outcomes. The STEM community needs structure and common language as well as a common understanding of what school success looks like. Perhaps more importantly, the business community needs to be assured that STEM programming will produce students who are ready to be hired in a STEM field at all levels. To accomplish these goals, the International Association for STEM Leadership (IASL) was born. In almost all cases, conversations with national, state, and local STEM leaders support the premise that a common definition is desired and a “golden standard” for STEM needs to be profiled and adopted by school leaders who want to be recognized for their vision and hard work in meeting the STEM demands of business and industry.

IASL Philosophy

IASL’s leaders believe in constructionist learning, which evolved from the theory that people create their own mental images to understand the world around them. The approach also posits that learning happens most effectively when people are actively making tangible objects. In this sense, constructionism is akin to experiential learning and builds on Jean Piaget's epistemological theory of constructivism. The IASL leadership believes Fab Labs are one such way to provide the “magic” that supports constructionist learning, engagement, and motivation to innovate, values our members hold dear with regard to the STEM movement. Fab Lab designs and implementation is one of the first tangible projects IASL and its partners are undertaking, beginning now with designing Fab Lab 2.0, a Fab Lab model of the future, a best practices and standards for these labs, viewed in the broadest sense. A Fab Lab may be found in a single school in a single district or part of a shared-time school that provides career and technical education. A Fab Lab can be a component of other collaboration efforts, including multiple schools working together, community engagement economic development strategies, as well as higher education and nonprofit partnerships. IASL works with partners that have more than 50 years of experience in developing and implementing this type of Fab Lab framework. As a result, IASL and its members have begun to systematically analyze the Fab Lab of the future, coined by IASL as Fab Lab 2.0.

Dr. Carole Cameron Inge is the founder of IASL and is an expert in education policy, technology and standardization. Her work in constructionism and constructivism began in the late 1980s as the commodity Internet was emerging and as she was beginning her first graduate degree from The George Washington University. Working closely at that time with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the federal technology agency that works with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards, Inge became an early pioneer in developing student content for the Internet. Seeing how the Internet and content could allow students the ability to make “almost anything,” she focused her attention on the landmark research project known as Computer Aided Education and Training Initiative (CAETI). This project designed, implemented, and deployed a sophisticated client-server software system for supporting collaborative critical inquiry with a diagrammatic evidence mapping tool, computer coaching, and a chat tool. Working with teachers and CAETI partners, Inge helped to develop realistic learning scenarios that embedded these tools in the DoDEA 9th grade science curriculum. This work was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency's Computer Aided Education and Training Initiative, under the title "Collaboration, Apprenticeship, and Critical Discussion: Groupware for Learning."

With a continuous fascination and steadfast focus on technology and distance learning standards, Inge went on to assist with the development of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), a collection of standards and specifications for web-based e-learning. It defines communications between client side content and a host system (called the run-time environment), which is commonly supported by a learning management system. SCORM also defines how content may be packaged into a transferable ZIP file called "Package Interchange Format." SCORM is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.

With SCORM well underway, Inge and her colleagues went on to create a scalable two-way interactive video system that paved the way for synchronous learning in a rural region of Virginia the size of Rhode Island. Then as a member of the K-12 Internet2 leadership community, her project was recognized by NASA and others. Inge went on to manage the NASA Center for Distance Learning and served as a founding board member for the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative. Both of these projects focused on standardization of the Internet, especially asynchronous and synchronous learning that would enable students the entre, capacity, and ability to construct “almost anything” using the Internet.

STEM Certification

Research confirms that there is currently no single entity developing internationally recognized certification for STEM. In fact, there is hardly a unified definition of STEM in education. There appears to be no institution producing STEM certified teachers in any measurable global way that is recognized by business and industry, the ultimate customer for STEM student education.

Like the early days of the Internet, leadership and visioning are needed to move the needle toward a standard way of understanding a complex phenomenon. Yet business and governmental communities are calling for more STEM in K-12, community colleges, universities, and apprenticeship models. Without standardization, STEM education will look like the bits and bites of the early days of the e-learning movement, similar to when the Internet could not fully make sense of the data being transported and received.

IASL has begun the process of developing STEM certification to fill a quality gap in STEM K-12 education. The IASL is leading a team of sophisticated STEM educators who have the experience and reputation of building and implementing model STEM programs with real results by their students.

The world is desirous of an open source, user-friendly STEM certification framework that measures student outcomes rather than teacher content input or specific STEM curriculum. IASL has begun to measure student-learning contexts and learning outcomes and will assume the content is being offered based on state, national, or international standards. The organization is working with business and industry to define the future STEM worker – one who is flexible, communicates well, is a team player, problem-solves collaboratively with colleagues, considers cultural differences in a global world, and is tech savvy for today’s technical world. The process of assessing and measuring STEM programs and learning outcomes will include volunteers who are seasoned, well-accomplished STEM program leaders.

The STEM certification will be student-focused, student-centered, and have strong connections to workforce outcomes. There are many STEM programs, but as previously identified, many are not scalable, some are too costly/time consuming and, for various reasons, not sustainable because they rely on one-time grants, short-term funding, or continuous teacher training. Yet educators believe effective learning is occurring around STEM organically and locally, and IASL is working to identify STEM leaders, recognize their efforts, understand their leadership and school cultures, and nurture them in ways that offer mentors and peer role models throughout the STEM community. Ultimately and most importantly, IASL wants the STEM leaders from around the world to share in the IASL vision and take ownership of the STEM certification process. This is an inclusive, bottom up and not top down approach to leadership.

The goal of the International Association for STEM Leaders, then, is to identify the best and brightest STEM leaders in the world, recognize their work, and prepare them to participate in the development of a single, global STEM certification process that will be recognized worldwide by business and industry. In May 2014, IASL embarked on the first video documentary on STEM leadership. In partnership with STEMconnector, STEMdaily has been featuring these STEM leaders each week who have been recognized globally as a few of the best STEM educators in the world.

STEM Leadership Summit, April 2014, in Washington, DC

In April, IASL brought the first international cohort of STEM leaders to the nation’s capital to take part in an inaugural STEM Leadership Summit. Attendance was invitation-only and the focus was on understanding STEM models of excellence, Fab Labs, coding and programming for youth, robotics, and beginning to build a framework for STEM certification. The first details of a global STEM certification process, one developed by STEM leaders for STEM leaders, was previewed. The event was attended by 75 STEM leaders, with16 leadership awards presented for outstanding contributions in STEM endeavors both nationally and internationally. Over 15 states sent STEM leaders to the summit and these leaders represented approximately 150,000 students within their direct education network.

IASL in Boston

In the fall of 2014, the IASL will host its second STEM Leadership Summit to bring together the next group of prequalified STEM leaders as well as those who attended the first event. IASL will convene a second set of STEM leaders to join the first cohort and share in the dialogue created from the first event. Each region has its own perspectives of STEM, and this summit will allow participants to share successes and learn what is working within regionally, as well as nationally and internationally. Once again, attendees will be prequalified by completing a STEM survey about their program and its unique qualities. The survey data will be used later to describe best practices in STEM. To be considered for an award, once again leaders are asked to take a STEM survey at www.stem-leaders.com. Prospective attendees are encouraged to nominate program leaders for STEM leadership awards—also on the IASL website. Selected members from the Harvard and MIT communities will be included in the dialogue about STEM visioning, implementation, and accountability. The agenda for the second STEM Leadership Summit will be posted on the IASL website in the coming months.


IASL leadership believes the STEM space requires collaborative partners and that competition among groups should be minimized. The movement is moving as fast as the development of technology and the Internet, so staying idle or working on one STEM model will limit opportunities to impact the lives of students, teachers, and school leaders. Dr. Inge recognizes policy development for STEM is necessary but slow, especially since each state and international culture is unique. STEM policy is needed, coupled with model programs that need to be replicated.

IASL welcomes groups who can offer services, partnerships, and projects that are going to impact the classroom and school levels. The STEM movement will get the most traction toward a “golden standard” of STEM excellence with this level of engagement. Results can be seen already. IASL STEM leaders from the first cohort have been globally recognized for their work by the Obama administration, the U.S. Secretary of Education, and many news and blogging channels, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Furthermore, because IASL started with STEM leaders with successful backgrounds and student accomplishments, the organization is well positioned to quickly demonstrate what STEM success looks like and the certification framework and corresponding criteria. Recognizing these leaders and their program models is a strategic strategy to defining STEM, a STEM “golden standard” of excellence and a certification processes that will follow.