AccessSTEM Activities

AccessSTEM offers engaging activities for high school and college students with disabilities. These include participation in an e-mentoring community, internships, and other work-based learning, workshops on STEM and college preparation, and field trips. AccessSTEM college students build their network of professional contacts and learn about STEM career fields. They increase their knowledge about assistive technology, work accommodations, and research.

Activities and Events for College Students

College students at AccessSTEM partner schools (UW, SCCC, and BC) are offered learning labs and workshops, contests and social events, paid opportunities to participate in focus groups or deliver panel presentations, and stipends to attend student leadership or STEM conferences.

Electronic and In-person Mentoring: Students engage with mentors online and in person. They learn about academic programs, accommodations, transition-to-work, and STEM careers. Students are also able to ask questions, seek advice, and share success stories.

Work-Based Learning: AccessSTEM students have regular opportunities to engage with corporate partners at events and workshops. For example, the Microsoft Corporation participates in an annual Mentoring Day where students meet with employees to learn about different jobs, review their resume and career goals, and make connections with professional mentors. Last summer, several AccessSTEM Team members travelled to Microsoft's campus to learn about product development, interact with a panel of employees who had disabilities, tour the technology museum, and learn about accessibility features in products. The students also completed a robotic-design project with the help of Microsoft employees. Other corporate partners include Seattle BioMed, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and Studio Pacifica Architects. Students also engage with corporate recruiters during events such as the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Recruitment Program, ENTRYPOINT!, Washington State's Project HIRE, and local job fairs.

AccessSTEM Internships: AccessSTEM student participants have completed more than 200 challenging internships in recent years! They have been inside an active volcano collecting data, watched a space shuttle launch from a control room, worked as a chemical engineer to explore photo-reproduction, explored the mystery of an unhealthy wolf population by analyzing parasite DNA, counted salmon at Mud Mountain Dam, and created working models of new rocket propulsion technology.

Student research internships from the last year include:

  • A biology research intern at UW's prestigious Kaeberlin Lab.
  • A mechanical engineering intern at Tethers Unlimited.
  • An astronomy research intern for the UW Astronomy department.
  • A library science researcher for the Renton Public Library.
  • A bio-molecular structure intern for UW's Dagget Research Group.

Other examples of AccessSTEM student internships include:

  • Internet accessibility and web design interns.
  • Computer modeling and 3D animation interns.
  • Lab coordinator interns at the UW Assistive Technology Center.
  • Computer programming interns at the Microsoft Corporation.
  • Technical interns at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • A computer networking intern at the Rose International Fund.
  • An environmental science intern with the Seattle chapter of the Sierra Club.
  • An equipment and software specialist intern at TechStep.
  • A technical program assistant intern at the UW Athletics Department.
  • A science education intern at the Pacific Science Center.
  • A computer programming intern for the American Red Cross.

Workshops: AccessSTEM participants learn about college success and STEM topics. Some students have engaged in web accessibility training and a follow-up internship where they test the accessibility of STEM websites and prepare accessibility feedback for web masters to help them improve their sites.

A 2010 AccessSTEM intern travelled to Costa Rica to complete a Hymenopteran observation study (counting bees and wasps). At one point, the group was following a GPS unit to the research site, when they came upon a 40-foot cliff. It can be said that the life of an intern is not dull! But when you are surrounded by coffee fields and receiving credit, how bad can it be?

Project staff help students understand how to get the most from these and other experiences in AccessSTEM. Staff also learn from student feedback about activities and internships.

Participation of Seattle Public Schools

SPS, a partner of AccessSTEM, is the largest K-12 school system in Washington State, serving more than 45,000 students in eighty-eight schools. SPS works within the AccessSTEM partnership to make STEM programs more welcoming and accessible to high school students with disabilities; expand the engagement of stakeholders; implement evidence-based practices to increase the number of students with disabilities transitioning to college; and expand an online resource center that shares research and promising practices with others.

Project staff work with administrators, counselors, parents, and educators to promote project activities and collaborate on project goals. For example, AccessSTEM staff attend meetings of the Career and College Advisory Committee and the Transition Planning Committee, as well as regular meetings of the career and counseling center and the special education department.

SPS who have become AccessSTEM Team members participate in electronic mentoring to learn more about opportunities and challenges in STEM fields. They also communicate with Team members who are in college or employed to learn about academic programs, how to be successful in college, work-based learning opportunities, and STEM careers. Team members are invited to local events on college campuses and at local STEM employers. For example, in October 2010, SPS teachers and nearly 100 students participated in the AccessSTEM Mentoring Day for students with disabilities. Student mentees learned about the skills and education needed to be successful in careers by visiting local companies such as Boeing, Seattle Children's (Hospital), Port of Seattle at SeaTac, and Seattle BioMed. They learned about a wide variety of jobs from employees that took time to talk about their work and their career.

Examples of activities for SPS students include the following:

  • UW College of Engineering Discovery Days
  • UW Math Day
  • Seattle Community Colleges' transition to college events
  • UW Access Technology Center tours
  • UW College of Engineering learning labs
  • STEM Networking Events
  • Career Events such as Mentoring Day at the UW Power Plant

Occasionally, AccessSTEM engages participants in contests. For example, in December 2010, AccessSTEM hosted it's second annual "STEM Resume Contest." Students received a series of online lessons about resumes and were encouraged to send their updated resume to project staff. Prizes were awarded to students who wrote the best resumes as well as those who demonstrated a commitment to STEM learning and participation in STEM activities.