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The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative

The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative

Bridging the Gaps in the K-12 to Post-Secondary Education Pathway
The logo for the Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative.                 

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which are powerful tools in our society and our economy, and which impact our life daily.

Southwestern Community College has been awarded a grant from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to enrich STEM education in our schools and communities, in partnership with Appalachian State University. As part of the Smoky Mountain STEM Collaborative, SCC and ASU will be working with local partners to expand opportunities for STEM education in western North Carolina: the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Cherokee Central Schools, Jackson County Public Schools, Macon County Public Schools, and Swain County Public Schools.

For undergraduates the grant will provide opportunities:


  • To participate in faculty-led research with established scientists from Appalachian State University and Southwestern Community College.
  • To work with experts on research at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute during a two-day stay.

For younger students additional projects will be funded through this grant to increase student engagement and success in STEM, and increase the number of local students who decide to pursue these excellent and fulfilling careers. These include:

  • Working with local math and science teachers in middle and high schools to incorporate some of the science NASA has been researching since 1958 to strengthen and enrich those classes,
  • Professional development workshops will be held for middle school and high school teachers in science and mathematics, highlighting many NASA educational resources. Workshops will be arranged to maximize teacher attendance.
  • GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) training will be offered for one teacher in each area (Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, and Cherokee Central Schools). This training helps teachers incorporate inquiry into science classes by having students collect real data to be shared online.
  • Orientation sessions describing NASA and related STEM educational opportunities and career choices will be held for middle and high school guidance counselors.

For the public the Smoky Mountain STEM Collaborative will provide local opportunities to increase understanding of scientific principles through events like Starry Nights, where telescopes will be set up and available for the public to see the night sky and hear experts discuss what they see.
STEM technological and instructional resources will be gathered in a physical and virtual collection to be shared with educators in the region.
Job opportunities in STEM fields are expected to continue to grow in the coming years. The local, state and federal workers involved in STEM jobs range from park ranger and teacher to surgeon and astronaut. Many take care of our most basic needs, like our daily need for clean water and electricity.

PAST Summer STEM Opportunities
The 2016 attendees of the Summer STEM Academy.

For Jackson County Students 
We work closely with Jackson County educators in developing specialized STEM experiences for learners at all levels through the use of ASTRO CAMP.


For Students in Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary
The Smoky Mountains STEM Collaborative supports regional summer camps with specialized visits and funding.  We also work with The Learning Center at PARI to provide "take-away" experiences in the form of Camp Connect STEM@Home project boxes.   

Fontana Regional Library Activities
Check the calendar of your local library for more information about STEM events at these locations.

The Learning Center at PARI
We have sponsored motivated local high school and middle school students to attend PARI's summer camp programs.  If you are interested, please reach out to your teacher, guidance counselor, or STEM coordinator.

Appalachian State University - Student Summer Research Experience
Southwestern Community College student James Howe and the App State mascot statue are both excited about the summer opportunities at App State.

  • A month-long (June) research experience for community college students (ages 18 or older) on the campus of Appalachian State University.
  • Student Researchers will spend four weeks housed in a dorm on App State's campus as they work with App State faculty doing research in either mathematics, physics, or astronomy.
  • Room and board are covered so the experience is at no cost to students!
  • Students will stay in private bedrooms at the luxurious Appalachian Heights well within walking distance to campus and beautiful downtown Boone!
  • In addition to conducting their own research and learning about the research of other faculty; students will have downtime to explore campus and the greater Boone area with opportunities to enjoy hiking or paddling down a river!
  • Students will have the opportunity to share the results of their research with fellow participants at the end of June and with a wider audience at a regional meeting in the fall!
  • Students will receive a stipend of $250 and funds are available to assist in travel to and from Boone.

For more information regarding the Summer Research Experience;
please contact Matt Cass ( or
Rene Salinas (


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