By Nathan Rubbelke, St. Louis Business Journal | July 20, 2021
Blueprint4, an app designed to connect young people with learning and job opportunities, has expanded to include a new platform focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming.
The new platform, Blueprint4STEM Powered by STEMSTL, provides a free-to-use, searchable database of extracurricular STEM programs for preK-12 students. The database launched Monday.
The initiative is a partnership between Blueprint4 and STEMSTL, which launched through local innovation hub BioSTL and focuses on ensuring access to STEM education and employment opportunities. Blueprint4’s original platform, Blueprint4Summer, was launched in 2015 and connects parents with a database of kid’s summer camps. Blueprint4 is managed by the Clark-Fox Family Foundation, whose co-founder and CEO is Build-A-Bear Workshop founder Maxine Clark.
Blueprint4STEM is designed to allow users to categorize their search by age group, subject matter, location, pricing and time commitment. The platform also allows parents to search for program scholarships and programs designed for students with disabilities. Kate Polokonis, interim executive director of STEMSTL, said the new tool is meant to be a “one-stop-shop for extracurricular STEM activities.”
“We’re really excited that we have this tool that allows you to search for programs that are really the right fit for your kid. We’re also excited to be able to share some programs that parents might not know about. We really do have so many organizations and so many of them are so great,” she said.
The STEM-focused platform marks the latest expansion for Blueprint4 since its launch in 2015. In 2017, it added a college prep database and in 2019 launched Blueprint4Careers, an effort to boost youth employment in middle-skill jobs in the St. Louis region.
“We’ve seen kids and teens participating in so many incredible STEM activities throughout the St. Louis region the last seven summers, and as the world begins to open up post-pandemic, we know families are even more excited to discover the variety of opportunities available to them,” said Clark. “We want all kids to discover and fall in love with STEM learning.”
Polokonis said Blueprint4Stem’s database includes programs from 25 organizations. The database currently includes listings of more than 1,000 STEM programming sessions that will take place between now and the beginning of the school year, Polokonis said.
In addition to providing parents with a tool to help parents search for education programming, Polokonis said Blueprint4Stem also provides a “landscape analysis” of the type of programming provided locally. She said that could help St. Louis educational and STEM leaders figure out which type of programming they might need to boost and identify gaps in where programming is offered.
“This is a really good tool to give us insight into what’s happening there,” she said.