STEM Innovator® leverages the University of Iowa's expertise as a research institution and incorporates the best evidenced-based research over the past 25 years in cognitive science, mathematics and science education, entrepreneurship, and business education. STEM Innovator® equips teachers and schools with the tools they need to execute the innovation model that works for their communities. It does this by creating a framework for teachers that focuses on problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and engagement with community partners. With STEM Innovator® teachers can help all their students succeed by developing the 21st Century Skills that are essential to thrive in the new economy.


Teachers gain access to a robust package of innovation curriculum, instruction, and assessments tools, including a proprietary STEM Innovator®Portfolio platform to provide real-time data collected from peers, teachers and community partners on individual and team competencies across the course of the project. This allows students to make data-driven decisions on whether to “Verify” or “Pivot” their prototype, adjust team problem solving strategies, and reflect on how well individuals and the team are functioning to advance a solution. Teachers can use the data to provide differentiated individual and team supports. The data can easily be shared with community partners assisting with the projects. 

Students demonstrate individual and team competencies through the STEM Innovator® formative and summative assessment package:

  • 21st Century STEM Skills and Practices
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation, Invention, and Entrepreneurial Practices
  • Community Engagement


A large, multi-year longitudinal research study led by Dr. Leslie Flynn of the Jacobson Institute indicates significant growth in the following areas:

  • 21st Century Skills (Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication)
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurial Skills and Mindsets (Resilience, Adaptability, Leadership, Teamwork, Grit, Decision Making)
  • NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

Significant growth persists when data is disaggregated by gender, racial classification, and school demographics.

The STEM Innovator® platform assists in closing the achievement gap traditionally found in STEM education. The result is a more diverse pool of students who demonstrate and self-identify as having college and career competencies necessary to persist in STEM education and career fields.


Our hope is that these learning opportunities be available to all K-12 students. Through STEM Innovator® teachers learn strategies to engage students in authentic tasks that resonate and connect their students’ learning in school to the real world. STEM Innovator®students learn how their studies tie directly to the needs of the community and are provided with the skills to lead our country in innovation for the next century.

Connecting students and community partners


The University of Iowa’s Jacobson Institute -- creator of STEM Innovator®-- partnered with the Tippie College of Business because we share the belief that young people need innovation skills and an entrepreneurial mindset to succeed and reach their full potential. In an effort to emphasize the importance of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, we offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credit that they can take with them anywhere.

  • Teachers: Must be a STEM Innovator® Certified Instructor.
  • Students: High school freshmen through seniors working with STEM Innovator® Certified Instructors must achieve a score of 70% percent or greater on the proficiency exam and successfully complete a project portfolio. 
  • Those who pass are eligible for three University of Iowa entrepreneurship credits from the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, a part the Tippie College of Business, at a reduced course fee of $150.

We encourage students to purchase the credits for several reasons:

  • An official transcript from a major research university demonstrates competency in innovation and entrepreneurship at a high level while still in high school.
  • STEM-related college credits can set students apart for admission to selective colleges and add value to college scholarship applications.
  • Credits are transferable to most colleges and universities, which can lower the total course load and overall tuition dollars spent in the near future.

Earning these credits is a significant achievement of which teachers, students and their families can be proud. Only students who pass the proficiency exam and submit an exceptional portfolio of their accomplishments receive this opportunity. We congratulate the students who achieve this honor.