Icon for: Tracey Hall


YouthBuild USA

CEE-STEM: An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opp...

NSF Awards: 1620904

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12, Adult learners

When individuals have multiple, authentic opportunities to grow skills, they can engage, follow their interests, use their talents and ultimately thrive. They also benefit from flexible supportive ways to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

CAST has developed a web-based digital application known as STEMfolio following design-based research practices with and for opportunity youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working to engage and support them in exploring STEM careers and to demonstrate their STEM and career competencies. 

STEMfolio is a tool that provides accessible support, media options for demonstration of competencies, instructor authored challenges, and creation of a sharable portfolio. Based on the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) STEMfolio includes; an e-portfolio to collect evidence of STEM learning and competency building, video case stories of role models engaged in STEM careers, rubrics to help evaluate understanding of STEM and STEM competencies, and built-in scaffolds and supports. 

Lack of reliable funding for programs, the instability caused by poverty, the lack of transportation, infrastructure and broadband services, particularly difficult for rural and tribal populations are some of the many challenges when working with underserved populations.

The use of a flexible, supportive tool such as STEMfolio is needed to help exploration and learning about career pathways to move toward sustainable employment opportunities for low-income and young adults with disabilities. Hear what programs in Career and Technical Education, prisons, apprenticeship and manufacturing training programs are saying about needing more flexible means for learners to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities.

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Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase (12 posts)
  • Icon for: Alan Peterfreund

    Alan Peterfreund

    Executive Director
    May 4, 2020 | 04:44 p.m.

    Fascinating project.  How are schools or organizations recruited to be part of this? 

  • May 5, 2020 | 04:23 p.m.

    Hi Alan,

    The programs that are in our study are all affiliate programs of YouthBuild USA, a national pre-apprenticeship program focusing on education and career development for young people from low income communities.  YouthBuild works with these young people on leadership, obtaining their high school equivalency and preparation for career pathways. There are over 300 YouthBuild programs across the country and we worked on co-designing this tool with 7-10 of them in the Northeastern United States and are now running an experimental study with YouthBuild programs across the country. YouthBuild USA helped us recruit individual YouthBuild sites into the study.

    Thanks, Sam

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Cynthia Blitz
  • Icon for: Patrick Honner

    Patrick Honner

    May 5, 2020 | 09:51 a.m.

    This sounds like a great idea. It puts me in mind of how personal websites and Github pages now serve as dynamic, representative portfolios of work and skills for writers, artists, and technology professionals.

    Are the individuals being served in this program being taught the skills to capture and present their work (e.g., shoot, edit, and publish video; put together dynamic visual and/or written summaries) or is it the function of the program to provide that service for them as a bridge to publication?


  • May 5, 2020 | 03:48 p.m.

    Hi Patrick,


    Thanks so much for your comments and for watching the video. I love the reference to GitHub. There is guidance embedded in the tool to help authors (teachers creating challenges) and user (students taking them). Beyond this we offer regular check ins where we support use of the tool such as capturing good evidence of STEM competencies. We haven't provided specific guidance on how to capture good video but we have some of that in other work we do with teachers around their classroom practices.  We certainly could adapt that guidance to this setting and it would fit.  Sam

  • Icon for: Nathan Auck

    Nathan Auck

    STEM Coordinator
    May 6, 2020 | 12:46 p.m.

    A great video to accompany a great idea! Thanks for sharing your work!

    I’m wondering about the framework for how instructors identify and assign competencies to their students. Is there a defined set of competencies instructors are choosing from or is it totally open? Many states have recently developed Portraits of a Graduate that lays out an overview of knowledge, skills and dispositions that they want students to graduate with. It would be really powerful to find some resonance between these tools that connect with huge populations for students and this tool that pushes expectations/demonstration of knowledge beyond seat time/written assessments!

  • May 6, 2020 | 01:24 p.m.

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the question. Instructors authoring challenges select seven competencies from a list of 34. Student users then see the seven competences when they are completing a challenge and can choose up to three tied to the evidence they've uploaded as part of their challenge. These 34 competencies were distilled down from a few sources - the Department of Labor's Building Blocks Model for Occupations with a focus on STEM occupations.  From the Georgetown Center for Education, the Workforce STEM Competencies analysis and from NGSS and the  competencies that YouthBuild USA has all individual programs work on (these are generally broad career skills).  We gathered competencies from all these sources and then brought them into co-design with our partner sites to ensure alignment with the work-based learning and classroom learning and leadership activities YouthBuild programs were doing and to create plain language definitions for each competency in the tool.  We've found this process to be really central to the project and to ensure that competencies are tangible to the people we want to demonstrate them - the learners. 

    Thanks again for the question and happy to share a document on our process if you want that.


    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Nathan Auck
  • Icon for: Nathan Auck

    Nathan Auck

    STEM Coordinator
    May 8, 2020 | 04:38 p.m.

    Thanks Sam! I’m excited to share this with some of my colleagues! I love how the process is metacognitive for the learner and Seems self-directed to a large extent!

  • May 6, 2020 | 04:20 p.m.

    This is a fine project! 

    As one who was hired over ten years ago  to crosswalk CTE competencies to science education frameworks, I am pleased to see the program reaching out of the paper support with worded expectations and into the visuals of accomplishments.  Further, how can this tool be furthered to aid students build evidence from their projects to gain help with critical areas that their early interests have generated but have no mentor to guide them?   Will the STEMfolio tool be offered to projects who have this type of need?

  • May 8, 2020 | 07:24 p.m.

    Hi Betsy,  Could you say a little more about how you might see this tool helping identify or support critical areas that they might then need a mentor for?  I want to make sure I understand the question correctly.  Thanks so much. Sam

  • May 9, 2020 | 10:18 a.m.

    View our project video for the way we try to show the recording of the students becoming engaged.  They are out filming and recording the Aeropod, however taking all that footage, mapping and reports and sorting it out for assessment nevermind ensuring copyrights is a hard next stage.  The mentor would essentially be what I’m doing during those filming pieces, aiding both the teacher to have visuals and content and aiding the student to know their relevance for the future.  

    Eager to see this tool step to fill the gap that we find for high school level students in rural locations…and/or for states interested in supporting their version of what New Hampshire has placed into law called “Extended Learning Opportunities” or ELO’s. 

    In ELO's, students may construct their course to augment or extend their learning and obtain course credit.  This “independent study” idea is not foreign turf, yet in the paper/pen era was a huge amount of extra work for the teacher in charge of the ELO.   The tool that’s missing is the STEMfolio as it also merges digital assessment and the selection by the student is a huge extra milestone as they can feel in charge of what is gathered and submitted, owning their project. 

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Stephen Mattin
  • Icon for: Annee Grayson

    Annee Grayson

    May 8, 2020 | 12:29 p.m.

    This is really interesting! My team (Project INSITE) works with incarcerated learners and we are developing an app to assist in transitioning youth to the workforce. Incarcerated learners were mentioned in your video and I'm wondering if the STEMfolio is only being used after their release? How has it been implemented in transitioning?

    Is the STEMfolio available to employers? How is it used to help youth become integrated in the workforce?

  • May 8, 2020 | 07:21 p.m.

    Hi Annee,

    Let's talk. We just submitted a proposal that included adapting this tool with individuals who are incarcerated to support workforce development both pre and post release.  Look forward to hearing more.  Sam

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