What Can Your STEM Networks Do for Your Invention Convention Program?

March 23, 2020

Invention Convention affiliates and participants live and invent within diverse communities that are full of other innovators and programs. In most of these places, from Boston to the Bay Area, entire networks exist that are built around STEM programming and knowledge sharing. You might already belong to just such a broad, STEM-oriented network personally or professionally, and leaning in to your partners in invention education can help your Invention Convention programming expand your impact.

At The Henry Ford, we are constantly looking to expand the positive experiences and learning impacts of Invention Convention. In January, this pursuit led us to Dr. Rudy Reyna, leader of the Alamo STEM Ecosystem, which covers the city of San Antonio, Texas. Rudy would be hosting the spring gathering of the nationwide STEM Ecosystems Community of Practice in March 2020, and we thought we could create a mutually beneficial partnership around that convening.

The Alamo STEM Ecosystem’s goal was to use the theme of the STEM Ecosystems convening — the power of invention education — to jump-start the Invention Convention program across San Antonio. The Henry Ford’s goal was to encourage STEM Ecosystems’ members to connect with Invention Convention affiliates in their areas and to launch new Invention Convention programs where they do not yet exist.

Great things happen when innovators get together, and our teams decided quickly to do something we had never tried before — to host the first-ever Invention Convention embedded within the conference. Attendees would see Invention Convention in action. A showcase spotlighting young inventors as part of the conference was absolutely the best way to get our point across about invention education. Over 400 STEM leader attendees even got the opportunity to be judges and engage with the student inventors.

This partnership between Alamo STEM and Invention Convention Worldwide (ICW) quickly activated the STEM network in San Antonio, bringing together school partners with dedicated teachers and excited students, local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations like maker spaces and prototyping labs, local government partners, including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT).

By tapping the local STEM network’s existing school connections, ICW was quickly able to sign up superintendents and their teachers. Within weeks, students were working on projects that would be judged and awarded by leaders in the local community. Importantly, the STEM network was able to successfully engage ICW with SAMSAT’s board of directors and establish the long-term vision of SAMSAT as the affiliate home of the Invention Convention San Antonio. More than 75 young inventors participated on March 2 in the first Invention Convention San Antonio, and the winning team — which proposed a line of clothing for the homeless that converts to tools for living, including a one-person tent — won a trip to the U.S. Nationals.

Click here to read more about the San Antonio initiative.

We could not have done this without the Alamo STEM network. Many ICW affiliates nationwide already engage with their local STEM networks and interests, but many still do not. STEM networks can accelerate the pathway to the market. Our STEM + Invention + Entrepreneurship (STEMIE) framework links perfectly to the STEM Ecosystem mantra.

The Henry Ford’s Invention Convention Worldwide program has established a strategic alliance with the STEM Ecosystems Community of Practice, covering more than 85 ecosystems across America. This membership base is a great place for you to start looking for local STEM partnerships. Check here to see if there is one in your area. While programmatic partnerships have the potential to be tricky, ICW and STEM Ecosystems share a focus on building learning opportunities and outcomes for students. Having mission overlap like this can help you build truly successful collaborations.

Indeed, we are fortunate that the next STEM Ecosystems Community of Practice gathering will be held in metro Detroit, the home of The Henry Ford and Invention Convention Worldwide. Originally scheduled for November 2020, the conference will now take place in 2021 due to the Coronavirus crisis. We look forward to deepening our partnership with STEM Ecosystems over the coming years, and hope that you are able to find valued partners in your communities as well.

Let me know if you have specific interests in linking with your local STEM Ecosystems partners, and I’ll help you make that connection.

Dakota Korth

Business Development, The Henry Ford