The STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) program focuses on teachers and industry professionals working side-by-side to craft curriculum and projects that prepare students for exciting STEM careers local to their community in manufacturing, information technology, bioscience (agriculture and medicine), finance and more. Since 2014, 118 STEM BEST programs have been awarded an opportunity to grow a series of community collaborations involving school+business partnerships.

“The STEM BEST satellite model will allow students to experience the industry or business environment firsthand. That experience is vital to prepare students for STEM success in college or career training after high school, and it allows business and industry to introduce students to outstanding career opportunities.”

–Governor Kim Reynolds

The STEM BEST funding opportunity offers:

  • award amounts up to $40,000.
  • a 17-month timeframe to spend funds (February 2024 to June 2025).
  • a cost-share match of 2:1 is required ($40,000 state funds to $20,000 awardee match).

The goal of the STEM BEST program is to support the launch of new or expanded STEM BEST K-12 models specifically focused on creating work-based learning opportunities that allow students to develop future focused, high demand skills through authentic real world experiences (Future of Jobs Report 2020, World Economic Forum). The STEM BEST program focuses on developing models that foster opportunities for growth within the identified skill sets in the diagram below. These future-focused skills align with the Iowa Academic Standards Universal Constructs and create opportunities for students to become leaders and innovators of a future-focused Iowa.

High Demand Skills Necessary for Future Success
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Application & Program Timeline

  • October 2024: Application opens in
  • December 2024: Application due by 4:59pm
  • December 2024 - January, 2025: Application Review
  • February 2025: Awards Announced
  • February 2025 - May 2026: STEM BEST program planning and implementation
  • May 15, 2026: Progress report and final invoice must be submitted
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Eligible Applicants

Applications for to become a STEM BEST program must be submitted by accredited Iowa public and non-public school districts and buildings serving students in grades K-12. Clusters of schools and/or districts are encouraged to apply. This requirement then verifies that the submitting entity will be the responsible fiscal agent. The application must also contain evidence of the roles assumed by the partnering schools/districts and other identified partners.

Different school buildings within an Iowa district may submit an independent STEM BEST proposal in the same proposal period. Individual school buildings may not submit more than one proposal in the same proposal period, unless one is for school-specific BEST creation and another is part of a multi-district consortium. In instances where this policy does not apply, please contact Iowa STEM,

For those applicants who have previously received a STEM BEST program award or who intend to connect to a past STEM BEST program awardee, please note that there is an additional required section in the proposal form that must be completed as part of the submission process. This section will be thoroughly reviewed to determine merits of the expanded program model with regards to student engagement, specific measurable outcomes and elements of financial need. Also, if the number of total proposals submitted exceeds funding available, priority will be given to those proposals submitted by schools/school districts not previously awarded a STEM BEST.

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An applicant is required to provide a 2:1 match, if seeking the full $40,000 you required cost-share would be $20,000. The match may be either cash and/or in-kind support and match may be contributed by the applicant or a community partner. To be eligible as match, the cash and/or in-kind contribution must be provided during the funding period of the STEM BEST program award.

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Examples of What Funds Can Be Used For

  • Facility upgrades
  • Purchase of industry grade equipment
  • Acquiring additional space
  • Time for program planning with partners
  • Travel needs for exploration
  • Integrating curriculum into existing courses
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STEM BEST Programs by STEM Region

STEM BEST Application

Webinar Recordings

Grant Writing 101

STEM BEST Program Overview: Experiences from 2 STEM BEST Models, Boone and Okoboji Community Schools

Student Impact and Curriculum Development

Community Partnerships and Professional Development

Developing a Budget for STEM BEST

Developing a Program that is Sustainable & How to Tell Others about it.

Planning for Evaluation

Proposal Development

Key Attributes to a STEM BEST Proposal

STEM BEST Program Curriculum

Building Partnerships

Community-Based Partnerships

Potential Roles of Partners PowerPoint

Business Partner Handbook


Cost-Share Examples

Valuing Volunteer Time - Assigning a value to cost-share

Program Testimonials

No Boundaries (Okoboji Community School District)

Explore ECC (Creston Community School District)

Boone Edge (Boone Community School District)


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