Project Lead the Way

The Greatest First-Generation: A Closer Look at STEM Premier's First-Gen Students


Two months ago, we introduced you to STEM Premier’s First-Generation student population; students whose parents do not possess a college degree. When we first began delving into the data on our first-gen students, we were floored by what we found. It turns out that they are some of the most highly-engaged users on our platform; they display higher levels of profile completion and digital badge ownership. That fact has inspired us to strengthen our commitment to these oft-forgotten students. We hope that excites and inspires you as well.

But who exactly are these students? Well, there’s nearly 30,000 of them on STEM Premier, which means they comprise about 10% of our total student user population. They hail from across the U.S., from coast to coast. They span a diverse range of ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are a big part of America’s future workforce, and they’re ready to make their impact in a multitude of career fields.

Do they have what it takes? Absolutely. 2,000 of them are National Honor Society members. Thousands more are engaged with HOSA - Future Health Professionals, Project Lead The Way, and other organizations.

Here’s a few more stats on our first-gen population:

Top States

  • South Carolina

  • California

  • Texas

  • Florida

  • Georgia

Top Career Interests

  • Registered Nurses

  • Surgeons

  • Mechanical Engineers

  • Pediatricians

  • Biological Scientists

  • Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides

  • Computer Programmers

  • Aerospace Engineers

  • Biomedical Engineers

  • Electrical Engineers

Top College Interests

  • Clemson University

  • University of South Carolina

  • Stanford University

  • Coastal Carolina University

  • UCLA

Highest Organizational Engagement

  • National Honor Society

  • HOSA - Future Health Professionals

  • Project Lead The Way

  • Future Business Leaders of America

  • National Technical Honor Society

Does your college, company, or organization want to learn more about and connect with this special group of upcoming talent? Join us today.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Announces Revolutionary New Assessment


STEM Premier and Project Lead The Way (PTLW) have long been proud partners in their mission to enhance the student experience by opening doors and providing opportunities. PLTW students across the country have been leveraging the STEM Premier platform to showcase themselves to the world. 

That's why were excited to report that PLTW recently unveiled a new way of assessing student ability.

Until now, student assessment tools have tended to focus strictly on academic subject matter. While not flawed in and of themselves, a singular reliance on these assessments has left colleges, universities, and businesses in the dark when it comes to the holistic potential of the applicants they are considering. For example, an aptitude test will convey how proficient a student is in mathematics, but it cannot tell a potential employer how creative that same student may be. Or how well they problem-solve, communicate, and work with others. Skills which are very much desired by organizations all over the country spanning every industry.

PLTW resolved to tackle this problem head-on by designing an assessment tool which could effectively capture these “soft skills” while maintaining its emphasis in the fields of engineering, biomedical science, and computer science. The result, PLTW predicts, will revolutionize the way schools, employers, hiring managers, and scholarship providers evaluate the value of their candidates and applicants. “The ability to problem-solve, to think critically, to communicate, to collaborate – we really haven’t had a way to signal those skills to future employers,” says Dr. Vince Bertram, President and CEO of Project Lead The Way, “The new PLTW Assessment will allow us to do that.”

To help design this new tool, PLTW assembled a coalition of thirty-eight experts who are respected professionals in secondary education, higher education, and industry. This coalition consisted of deans, faculty members, hiring managers, CEOs, engineers, and others representing widely-respected entities such as Duke University, Vanderbilt University, NASA, FedEx, John Deere, and Eli Lilly. This PLTW Test Advisory Panel provided input as to which skills are the most valuable to their organizations. The final verdicts? Creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, ethical reasoning, and mindset.

Then, assisted by nationally recognized psychometricians, they figured out the best ways to measure those skills within the context of a standardized testing environment. Naturally - considering the nature of what they were measuring - they had to put their own problem-solving talents “to the test” and think outside the box.

The resulting assessment format is one which redefines standardized testing. It is interactive and utilizes simulations, video stimuli, situational judgment questions, and other types of challenges to measure the test-taker’s real world ability to apply their skills and knowledge. It effectively eliminates the possibility for students to “beat the system” by cramming. It also closes loopholes inherent in other standardized tests, such as “successful guessing.”

400,000 PLTW students across the country will take the assessment starting in the 2018-2019 school year, followed by an estimated 450,000 during the 2019-2020 school year. Upon completing the assessment, these students will have a comprehensive metric which will have a plethora of relevant applications, from scholarships to job opportunities.  

STEM Premier salutes PLTW and congratulates them on the creation of their new assessment. We believe that students are more than simply their academic test scores. Every student on the STEM Premier platform is unique in their own right. That's why STEM Premier allows student to add videos to their profile and provides a skills showcase section; so they can show off the talents that don't come across through a grade or test score!

STEM Premier Spotlight: Hezekiah Branch

One of the best things about having so many amazing student users on our STEM Premier platform is that there is never a shortage of great stories to tell!

Our most recent spotlight is on Hezekiah Branch, a senior at Ridge View High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Hezekiah was recently named a semi-finalist for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program; one of the most competitive scholarship programs in the country.

Less than 200 U.S. Presidential Scholars across the nation are chosen each year, representing excellence in education and the promise of greatness in America’s youth. Chosen scholars will be invited to Washington, DC in June to receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at the White House.

Hezekiah is extremely passionate about biomedical science and has been involved with a plethora of related organizations including HOSA and Project Lead The Way. He is also one of our fantastic STEM Premier Student Ambassadors, helping us spread the story of STEM Premier!

We caught up with him recently for a little Q&A. Here’s a little bit about Hezekiah in his own words.

1.  Something you wouldn't know about me is...that I am originally from Boston, MA and my family is Trinidadian.

2. For fun, I like to...learn programming languages like Swift and Java as well as play sports.

3.  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, I would want to meet...John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite pieces of literature of all time.

4. The best teacher I've ever had mother who taught me how to read when I was around three or four years old.

5. The last app I downloaded on my phone was...FaceApp.

6. After high school, my next step is Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science at Tufts University.

7. In ten years, I see myself...having graduated from college and working as a medical researcher.

8. My greatest dream is up an international non-profit organization for students to complete research in biomedical sciences.

9. What I like about STEM Premier most is...the facility of organizing my information as well as the design of the website. I also appreciate how other people can view my profile and gain insight into my personality and accomplishments.

Thanks Hezekiah! We wish you the best of luck as the final selections are made this month for the Presidential Scholars Program!

Announcing the 2017 STEM Premier Top 100

It is with much pride and excitement that we announce STEM Premier’s 3rd annual Top 100 rankings: The 2017 STEM Premier Top 100!

This year, over 225,000 STEM Premier student users attending over 16,000 high schools from across the country competed for a place in the Top 100, making this accomplishment a testament to the Top 100’s academic and extracurricular endeavors.

This year’s Top 100 features students from 32 different states, with the most highly represented states being Texas (13 students), California (9), and Washington (8). The diversity of academic and extracurricular success of this group is astounding. Top 100 students are comprised of valedictorians, National Merit Scholar Finalists, AP Scholars,Science Olympiad Champions, Girl Scouts & Eagle Scouts, Presidential Scholars, and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) members.

And that’s just getting started.

Other Top 100 students are involved in specialized and highly technical organizations such as FIRST Robotics, VEX Robotics, Google Code-in, JROTC, HOSA - Future Health Professionals, 4-H, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Mu Alpha Theta, and SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers).

How are students chosen for the Top 100? We utilize a unique algorithm which accounts for over 30 different factors from each student’s profile. This process quantifies and synthesizes the profile information and creates a star rating for each individual student. Students considered for the Top 100 are then contacted and verified to ensure accuracy and integrity of the information added to their STEM Premier profile.

While we are proud to announce this year’s Top 100, we would also like to recognize every single one of the nearly quarter-million students on STEM Premier’s platform who are pursuing their educational and professional dreams. We wish all the best of luck as you shoot for the stars!

Click here to view the 2017 STEM Premier Top 100


STEM Premier Spotlight: Tennessee

Quick Facts:

  • STEM Premier Secondary-Level Students: 2,000+
  • Top College Interests: University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee Technological University
  • Top Intended Majors: Pre-Medicine, Nursing, Mechanical Engineering

Having added 500 new student profiles in the past two months, Tennessee’s STEM Premier footprint is growing at a rapid pace. Among Tennessee’s more than two thousand STEM Premier students are 189 National Honor Society members and 107 HOSA members.

The state’s largest concentrations of STEM Premier students are located in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, and Johnson City. The top occupational interests of Tennessee’s students include surgery, nursing, pediatrics, and mechanical engineering.

In recent years, the state has been directing resources to enhancing the state of STEM within its borders, establishing the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network - a “kindergarten to jobs” educational program - in 2010. Tennessee’s Department of Education also is a strong proponent of Project Lead the Way, and encourages Work Based Learning (WBL) as a proactive approaching to closing the gap between high school and high-demand, high-skill careers in Tennessee. The state predicts that STEM talent will be needed in critical areas in order to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, cleaning up existing hazards, and preventing future issues. Public health will also be an area of STEM need.

STEM Premier Attends STEM Solutions Conference

                                     STEM Premier Co-Founder Casey Welch at the STEM Solutions Conference

                                     STEM Premier Co-Founder Casey Welch at the STEM Solutions Conference

STEM Premier is on the move! Last month, we hit the road to visit the 2016 USA Science & Engineering Festival in our nation’s capital. We followed that up with a jaunt to Rock Hill, SC to drop in on Teen CEO Day. Our most recent excursion took us to Baltimore, MD where we exhibited at the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference.

This annual conference - now in its 5th year - brings together the brightest minds in business, academia and government not only to contribute key insights to the nationwide STEM debate; but also to ensure that STEM’s hard-won momentum is channeled into practical, self-sustaining strategies for inspiring, educating and hiring the diverse STEM workforce of tomorrow.

An all-star cast of speakers highlighted the conference and included Timothy Lawrence, Executive Director of SkillsUSA, Margaret Mannix, Executive Editor of U.S. News and World Report, and Dr. Jo Handelsman from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Attendees also heard from Vince Bertram, CEO of Project Lead the Way, one of our proud partners.

            Mary K. Diers and Steve Kappler, two of our good friends from ACT

            Mary K. Diers and Steve Kappler, two of our good friends from ACT

Amid the numerous exhibitors at the conference were our good friends and strategic partners ACT, and it was great getting to interact with their talented team for a couple of days. Other notable attendees at the conference included Northrop Grumman, Minorities in Energy Initiative, and BEST Robotics.

Of course, no trip to Baltimore is complete without a trip to Camden Yards, and so the STEM Premier team took a quick break to see the Orioles take on the Seattle Mariners!

The Right Fit: University STEM Student Success Hinges on Clear Direction

Ask any college-bound student what they plan to major in at their post-secondary institution. Chances are that they will have no idea. Even if they do, it is no guarantee that they will stick with their intended major throughout their matriculation.

 Even if you restrict your query to the STEM disciplines, the picture becomes no less hazy.

Among the general population, there lacks an understanding of the diversity of STEM, even within its subsets, like engineering.

 There’s mechanical engineering. Electrical engineering. Chemical Engineering. The list goes on. And even if students are able to figure out that engineering is in their future, they still have to decide what type they are most interested in - and have the most aptitude for.

 A recent article by U.S. News and World Report highlights the benefits which exist for students to know exactly what type of engineering program they’d like to pursue before they get to college. Uncertainty can lead to delayed graduation dates, which can mean more student loans, and more debt for young graduates. Better for students to go to school knowing what curriculum they need to pursue.

This is, admittedly, no easy feat. It’s tough enough for a student to decide if they even want to be an engineer, let alone what kind, before they step onto campus.

That is why numerous organizations are stepping in to assist high school students find the right path for themselves. Entities, such as STEM Premier partner Project Lead the Way, bring STEM curricula directly to middle and high school students so they can get a better understanding of the different areas of engineering and find what most interests them.

Experts are lauding these organizations and are highly encouraging students to engage with them to benefit their own educational career. At STEM Premier, we continue to strive to shrink the learning curve for students around the country. If students know what they want to achieve, we can help them more effectively achieve their goals.