The Science Near Me blog is a partnership between Discover magazine and ScienceNearMe.org.
Science is happening all around you – but sometimes it’s tricky to figure out how to get involved. That’s why resources like the North Carolina STEM Center exist.
Founded in 2012, the NC STEM Center was created as a digital hub to showcase science-related opportunities all around North Carolina. That includes citizen science projects, museum demonstrations, conferences, field trips, coding classes and much more.
It exists “to have a place for [someone] to come, whether it be an educator or a family member who’s looking to provide engaging opportunities and activities for their children, or engage themselves,” says Akua Carraway, a program associate for the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center, which manages the NC STEM Center.
Recently, the NC STEM Center got an upgrade to help them reach even more people through an online hub. Embedded in their sleek, redesigned website is a powerful feature from Science Near Me that makes finding STEM opportunities easier than ever.
The NC Stem Center’s custom Exchange displays local (and virtual) opportunities from Science Near Me’s database right on the NC STEM Center website. Visitors can tailor search results for in-person events near the city or town they live in, and filter for opportunities on specific dates. And event hosts can add opportunities right to the NC STEM Center portal, giving them a streamlined way to spread the word.
Carraway says that the Exchange has helped make the NC STEM Center opportunity portal more accessible and easy to use – which is vital for engaging people of all ages and technological abilities.
“We have a broad audience that we’re trying to reach and provide information to,” Carraway says. “Having a very simple, streamlined tool at hand for them to be able to use was a definite selling point for those of us partnering in this work.”
The NC STEM Center is the latest organization to use the Exchange to broadcast science opportunities to their community. Other groups, like the Alabama STEM Council and Nation of Makers, also use their Exchanges to showcase a tailored calendar of events to their audiences. The Exchange has also been an essential tool for organizing large-scale events, like the Wisconsin Science Festival.
And the best part? Science Near Me makes the Exchange available to STEM organizations anywhere. Read on to learn how it’s making a difference for the NC STEM Center, and how the Exchange can help your organization, too!
It’s only been a few weeks since the NC STEM Center’s new website launched, but Carraway is encouraged by the initial feedback from community members.
“They seem to be quite excited about the look and feel of the refreshed site and are looking forward to repopulating a lot of upcoming events,” she says.
With their new website, one of the big goals for the NC STEM Center is to reach a broader audience of people who might be interested in learning or teaching about science. North Carolina, like much of the U.S., is home to residents who live in a range of rural, suburban and urban areas, and have varying needs, interests, and experience with STEM.
On the calendar are a variety of fun opportunities, such as Family First Friday at the Kidzu Children’s Museum and field trips at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill. There’s also a number of conferences and meetings geared toward educators, such as the NC Arboretum’s Project EXPLORE and the Bridging the Gap STEM Conference in October.
With the Exchange, backend analytics will also help the NC STEM Center team gather comprehensive data on who they’re reaching and how people are interacting with the opportunities offered. Then, that information can help influence how the site is organized and what kinds of information and opportunities it provides.
“We’re really looking forward to using those analytics to always inform our next step in planning,” Carraway says. Understanding how different communities and educators across North Carolina use the website can help inform future improvements.
And it will also be a huge help next spring, when the North Carolina STEM Festival takes place. Every year during Citizen Science Month in April, there are events and opportunities happening in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties for an entire month. The NC STEM Center is preparing to use their Exchange portal to organize the whirlwind calendar of events happening next April.
For anyone in North Carolina with an interest in science, the NC STEM Center is the place to go to locate your next activity! And if you live outside the state, rest assured that you can still harness the power of the Science Near Me Exchange by visiting the Opportunity Finder online. Use the tool to narrow down the type of opportunities you’re searching for, and filter by location and date.
Since many organizations are already using the Exchange to promote events, you might see the Opportunity Finder’s familiar interface on the homepage of your local STEM Center.
And if you happen to be in charge of a STEM organization and want to share a wide variety of opportunities with your audience, Science Near Me can help! Check out our page on display opportunities and send an email to email@example.com for more information on the Exchange and the Science Near Me widget for your website.
If your organization offers events, projects or programs that invite the public to engage in STEM, add it to Science Near Me!