Black Belt STEM Institute

The UWA Black Belt STEM Institute is a powerful regional center for STEM education that aims to serve the hiring needs of employers across Alabama, but especially in the Black Belt. By offering supplemental curricula focused on providing students real­ world learning experiences in the context of innovation, design, and technology students develop an awareness of STEM career opportunities while simultaneously reinforcing academic standards and skills learned in the classroom.   

The UWA Black Belt STEM Education Institute informed by research, expert STEM educators, school partners, business and industry demands, as well as other stakeholders including parents, community leaders, and students will serve as the hub organization central to a network of stakeholders dedicated to transforming STEM education in the West Alabama Black Belt region. This Collective Impact approach facilitates the effective use of resources to make measurable differences in STEM education. By addressing the primary areas impacting student achievement, recruitment of STEM teachers, retention of STEM teachers, and education of students using best practices in STEM education focused on the skills needed by business and industry, the UWA Black Belt STEM Education Institute will change the landscape of the Black Belt. 

Goal of the Black Belt STEM Institute 

Revitalization of STEM education in Alabama (particularly rural STEM education in the Black Belt Region) 

Why is the Black Belt STEM Institute Important? 

  1. A shortage of high qualified STEM teachers in Alabama 
  1. An increasing demand for a highly-skilled STEM workforce 
  1. Alabama ranked last in 2019 in math performance on the Nation’s Report Card 
  1. Alabama is desperate for improvement in the College and Career Readiness benchmark 

How are we attempting to affect change in Alabama schools? 

  1. Transformation of STEM education in Alabama using a Collective Impact Approach, regularly convening key stakeholders, including representatives from UWA’s Colleges of Education and Natural Sciences and Mathematics, P-12 school partners (leaders and veteran STEM teachers), current pre-service STEM teachers, and community and business partners who are united in an effort to positively impact STEM education. 
  1. Recruiting and retaining more math, science, and technology teachers into STEM education. 
  1. Supporting pre-service and newly certified teachers through STEM coaches and mentor coaches. 
  1. Professional development opportunities, quarterly workshops at the  UWA-Cahaba Biodiversity Center, and opportunities to earn micro-credentials in STEM areas.   
  1. STEM teacher scholarships/stipends. 
  1. Improved STEM teaching efficacy for retention. 
  1. Increasing student interest and achievement in math and science disciplines. 
  1. STEM career exploration. 

How will this institute increase student interest and achievement in STEM? 

Inquiry-based learning and place-based learning will capture students’ attention and provide the experiential learning needed for students to retain STEM content.   

Delivering a series of STEM activities and STEM curricula driven by the needs of industry leaders, combining hands-on STEM with knowledge and skills required to be successful in today’s STEM workforce.  

STEM Activity Implementations 

The following work-based education and training models will utilize industry—driven standards to engage students in STEM learning, thus increasing their likelihood of success and pursuit of a STEM career.   

  1. An intense approach to learning fractions (Hammer Math),   
  1. a mobile unit equipped with virtual and actual hands-on equipment called “Skills on Wheels.” 
  1. the new, innovative STEM middle school curriculum, “We Build It Better.”  
  1. a free resources allowing Alabama students to explore STEM and Computer Science Careers, Learning Blade, which includes 2 new initiatives in Alabama, Career Blade, which provides K-12 Career Lessons that will connect with Local Businesses, and Ready for Industry, which helps upper high school through adults prepare to enter the workforce in 5 in-demand industries. 


NASA and IBM host STEM camp for teens at Wallace Best Buy Tech Center | News | 

BRCC, NCCER provide Hammer House Build Experience for Istrouma High Students 

Engineering Success: Breathing New Life into STEM Education in Rural Alabama 


If you have any questions, would like to know more about the Black Belt STEM Institute, or would like to work with the Institute to help improve STEM education in the region, please email