Strength in STEM BEST Network

Students from BCLUW engage local business partners as part of their STEM BEST Program.
STEM BEST Program students from BCLUW engage local business partners to create concrete statuaries of this model as part of a manufacturing project that will promote school pride and community unity.
The STEM acronym goes beyond science, technology, engineering and mathematics and incorporates many other disciplines and skill sets for both students and educators. BCLUW High School Science Teacher Roberta Vanderah has experienced this first-hand through their STEM BEST Program.
Vanderah’s interest in establishing a STEM BEST Program began when she attended the STEM Council’s Professional Development Palooza in 2017. The Iowa Big North STEM BEST Program partners were at the event and shared what their students were accomplishing. Their excitement and enthusiasm for the program led Vanderah to present the concept to others in her school district. She met with the school counselor, principal, school board and superintendent. Once she had the green light, she focused her efforts on trainings, organization and recruiting business partners. She created a business partner handbook and found that meeting face-to-face with local businesses was helpful in the process. When the COVID pandemic halted in-person meetings, Vanderah turned to the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning to help identify projects for students. 
“There will be glitches no matter how prepared you are. You need to be flexible,” said Vanderah. “The more people hear about it, the more interest we are going to generate. This helped fuel me.”
There has been a lot of enthusiasm from the students involved in the BCLUW Blue Apples STEM BEST Program. The students are excited that they can individually make a difference. In addition to utilizing STEM disciplines, the students have developed business plans, presented their ideas and projects to others, designed prototypes, prepared marketing and sales plans, recruited business partners and more.
Vanderah cited that the network of STEM BEST Program partners has played a critical role in helping her troubleshoot hurdles along the way.
“That is the great part of the program – helping others that want to take this journey. This is a collaborative effort throughout the state,” said Vanderah.
BCLUW Blue Apples is one of the 65 STEM BEST Programs that are part of this statewide network. To learn more about establishing a STEM BEST Program, visit or contact Tanya Hunt at
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