Growing STEM Innovators: A Love Story

Design, Make, Play
Courtesy of Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

From Education Week: “Design. Make. Play. These activities are at the heart of a new book that explores ways of getting young people hooked on STEM learning. Readers take a trip to the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum; Maker Faires, the Ultimate Block Party in New York City, and a warehouse space dubbed a Maker Palace for Educators, among other places.”

Click here to discover why “Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators” is a must read.

Kentucky Science & Engineering Fair

Hundreds of students will compete in this year’s Kentucky Science & Engineering Fair, which will be held March 30 at Eastern Kentucky University. The participants have already participated in a regional fair and will compete for a 1-in-6 chance to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.

Here are some highlights from last year’s Intel ISEF:

Innovate Kentucky will be providing coverage of the 2013 Kentucky Science & Engineering Fair. For more information on the state fair, click here.

Solar-Powered Model Car Competition

Solar-powered car

From THE Journal:

A national online competition challenges students in grades 4-8 to build the fastest, best designed, and most visually stunning solar vehicle they can imagine.

Funded by the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) and overseen by the Technology Student Association (TSA), the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) program is designed to help students learn valuable hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and give them an opportunity to compete at local and regional events, or enter an online competition that pits their car against competitors from across the nation.

The model cars must be built to certain specifications. For instance, the materials used to construct the model car must cost less than $50, and  the sun’s light is the only energy source that can be used to power the vehicle. Students are also encouraged to get creative with decorating the car’s body.

The JSS program’s local and regional events, which are offered through schools, youth groups, and organizations, help students develop teamwork and problem solving skills and learn about solar power as an alternative fuel through student and teacher training workshops and races.

For the online competition, students must submit details about their cars, including project documentation, design drawings, photos, videos, and time trial results.

The cars will be judged on design quality, creativity, originality, quality of construction, design documentation, and the best time trials. Awards will be given to the top five rated entries for each grade level. Participants have until March 15, 2013 to register for the completion, and submission materials are due by April 30, 2013.

The JSS Web site includes additional resources for teachers, mentors, and other community members interested in helping kids design, build, and race model solar cars. For more information, visit

“The Junior Solar Sprint program aligns with the Army’s goal of having a national impact on STEM education. JSS challenges students to use scientific know-how, creative thinking, experimentation and teamwork,” said Louie Lopez, chief of education and STEM outreach at United States Army Research, Development, and  Engineering Command, in a prepared statement.

Visit for more information about the United States Army Educational Outreach Program.

Episode 15: IF Lexington

IF Lexington logo
Courtesy of IF Lexington

IF Lexington is happening this Thursday and Friday (March 7 & 8) at the Locust Trace AgriScience Farm in Lexington. Thursday’s session is a student-only event while Friday is open to the public. Admission for Friday is $55.

In this episode of the Innovation Update, Josh talks with IF Lexington curator Kent Lewis about how the idea for a Lexington-based event came about and why events like IF Lexington are vital to Kentucky’s future.


2013 Buck$ for Bright Ideas Competition

Buck$ for Bright Ideas logo

Do you have an idea for a new product, service or an invention? If so, you need to participate in the 2013 “Buck$ for Bright Ideas” competition.

Buck$ for Bright Ideas is a publicly funded program that encourages residents in our region of the state to move forward with their “bright ideas.” Many faculty and staff at WKU have ideas for new products that could be the foundation of a new business. Some of these people need help moving forward toward commercialization. The Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center, part of the Kentucky Innovation Network, is here to help with that effort. Our business development experts will work with you to turn your idea into a business reality!

Complete a simple application and compete for over $25,000 worth of valuable prizes. There will be multiple winners who will receive free services from regional professional service firms for market research, patent research, accounting support, product design help and more. All applicants are eligible to receive one-on-one assistance with their idea at no charge! All ideas submitted will be held in strict confidence.

New for this year we have a special Student Category, open to high students over age 16. At least one award will be made in this category.

The application deadline is April 17. An awards banquet for all participants is planned for May 1 at 6:00 PM at the Innovation and Commercialization Center located at the WKU Center for Research and Development at 2413 Nashville Rd. in Bowling Green.

For more information on the program and an application form, go to You can also contact William (Jeff) Hook at the Central Region ICC office. Phone: 270.901.3490. Email:

Communication laws in Kentucky need updating

Kris Kimel
Courtesy of Flickr user g e o f f

Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation President Kris Kimel says, “The General Assembly’s decision last session to refrain from updating Kentucky’s communications laws was a step in the wrong direction for Kentucky’s economy.” He contends that Kentucky must update its laws in order to remain competitive in a technology and innovation-driven society. New jobs, he says, will rely on the state embracing those changes now.

Click here to read Kimel’s full piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

STEM Careers: Forensic Engineer

Jonathan McGehee

Jonathan McGehee

Forensic Engineer for VCE Inc.

Graduated from Western Kentucky University

It is amazing when you really think about it. I mean literally everything around us has been engineered.

How did you become interested in engineering, particularly forensic engineering?

I’ve always enjoyed math and science. I love how you can use the principles to solve real problems and understand how things work. My dad worked as an engineer and I really respected the work that he did with the careful analysis and attention to detail that I saw him do. I got involved in forensic engineering at VCE Inc. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a wide variety of different types of investigations. It is very interesting work.


Tell us about your job and what it is you do for VCE Inc.

We are typically hired by insurance companies and attorneys to take a look at various types of failures or accidents where there is a question about how or why it happened. We are there to provide an independent technical assessment. I help with vehicle accident reconstructions, structural damage investigations, roofing damage investigations, water intrusion investigations, sinkhole damage investigations, and blasting damage investigations.


Why is it important to the future of this country to get more students interested in engineering?

It is amazing when you really think about it. I mean literally everything around us has been engineered. Your house, your car, your smartphone, your computer, the internet, your television, the roadways, the bridges, the traffic light timing, the systems that deliver electricity and water and sewer to our homes and schools and workplaces. And when you learn all that goes into even the smallest part of the smallest thing, you realize how many engineers we need to design and maintain these things and to create the next thing that we don’t even have now that will change our lives.


What is the professional goal of a forensic engineer like yourself?

Personally, my goal is to build and maintain a high level of technical competence in order to provide solid, accurate assessments for our clients. Additionally it is important to develop strong interpersonal skills to be able to interact well with other engineering team members and with people who are distressed by the losses we investigate. You also have to maintain a high level of integrity.


What do you think would help get students more interested in engineering at a younger age?

I think if they were shown what real engineers do and how there are engineers behind many of the amazing things they see in our world and how they too could one day put their creative, inventive energies behind an idea and develop it into a physical reality that changes peoples lives for the better, many would embrace that vision and develop an interest in engineering. I mean children are naturally curious, imaginative and creative and I think if they connected that with a compelling vision for where an engineering career could take them and what they could do, it could carry them through the challenges and academic rigors that sometimes throw people off the engineering track.