Impacting 1 Million Students with STEM in a Year: Battelle’s Blueprint

At Battelle, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) represents the basis for all we do. Nationally, more than 10 million people work in STEM jobs and by 2030, that number is expected to grow by 11% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, as a country, we are not providing adequate STEM education to our children. The next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors and more need these skills to succeed.

We believe America’s businesses would be wise to realize the opportunity and obligation of supporting local communities, protecting the environment and making sure young people have the education and skills required to effectively enter the workforce. To that end, we encourage all major businesses to seek out at least one STEM education program to support in the next calendar year.

When I became President and CEO of Battelle in 2017, I challenged my organization with a bold goal to impact 1 million children a year with high-quality STEM education programming by 2025. I’m proud to announce that Battelle has reached that goal three years ahead of schedule! In the past year, we reached 1.4 million students with valuable STEM programming in communities across the country.

We are far from done.

Education has the power to change the path of a person’s life. It changed my own. Years ago, when I walked across a stage at Kansas State University as the first person in my family to graduate from college, I didn’t know that one day I’d lead the world’s largest independent, nonprofit applied science and technology organization. It didn’t take me long to learn the necessity of extending STEM education to young people. STEM education has the potential to transform students’ lives. Even for those whose careers will be outside of STEM fields, the education provides a foundation in critical thinking and problem solving—useful tools for any career.

Photo: stem students assembling a circuit board

The story of how Battelle got to this point offers key lessons on our strategy and provides highlights of how we support educators who seek to bring innovative strategies to their classrooms.  

Any investment made for a business should be strategic. As a Central Ohio organization, we recruit from local universities—as well as national ones—for the best talent. To create a robust talent pool in the future, Battelle made key investments in programs that strengthen the nation’s future workforce.  

For example, after co-founding the Metro Early College High School with The Ohio State University in 2006, Battelle and the State of Ohio worked together to form the Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN), a public-private partnership designed to provide STEM learning opportunities for all students across the state. Furthermore, as part of our initiative to impact 1 million students, we created a new grant program to fund educators’ ideas for expanding STEM learning in their own classrooms across Ohio.

Battelle has also invested millions of dollars in support of the KIPP Columbus campus to give underserved communities more access to experience the opportunities of a science career. We also saw opportunity at the PAST Foundation and gave our support for launching summer programs for underserved youth in Ohio. I’m particularly excited about the potential for PAST’s STEM Identity Project to help diverse populations of future educators and students see that they belong in STEM.

Battelle is also a proud founding sponsor of the COSI Science Festival, Ohio’s largest STEM event. Through this outstanding two-day science gathering, Central Ohio organizations, including Battelle, connects with thousands of young people to teach them about the everyday science of our world. We also have supported the new Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland STEM Leadership Center and Maker Space at Camp Ken-Jockety with the goal of putting 2.5 million girls in the STEM pipeline by 2025.

More recently, students now can share their ideas on solving real-world climate challenges with our scientists through the new Battelle Climate Challenge.

Investing in emerging innovative school options is another area to evaluate. A key example of this can be found at Metro Early College High School, where renovations are beginning on the historic Indianola Middle School in Columbus, Ohio to expand the school’s footprint. Thanks to support from Battelle, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the Ohio State University and a group of community funders, more than $30 million in renovations will allow more students to have the opportunity to attend a highly successful STEM school to launch their futures.

Other initiatives have allowed us to expand our footprint beyond the state of Ohio. Battelle worked with state leaders in Tennessee to establish the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN) and we also manage STEMx, a national network of STEM education leaders who collaborate to advance high-quality STEM education as a workforce and equity imperative. We also have taken a leadership position with the consortium of nine organizations that support the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program to reach students and teachers opportunities for real-world STEM experiences.

We can all rally around building a future workforce that our nation will need for its future competitiveness and success. The next century will be built by today's young people. Together, we can brighten tomorrow’s future by investing in STEM opportunities that broaden the horizons of the next generation. 

Photo: stem student using magnifying glass to examine plants in a field

November 18, 2022
Lou Von Thaer, President and CEO of Battelle
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins

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