The South Central STEM Collective (otherwise known as SC2) was created to serve South Central Pennsylvania as "STEM Central" to inspire youth aged K-12 through hands-on education, competitive robotics and drone teams, maker spaces, and community outreach.
Although still in the early stages, SC2 has big plans to help students excited about science, engineering, technology, art, and more. Whether on the road to a high-school robotics competition or working hard with younger students excited about Lego projects, SC2 is here to help students as they explore their futures.
To understand where SC2 is going, it is equally important to understand where SC2 came from. For this reason, it is important to start at the beginning: Biohazard.
Biohazard is a FIRST Robotics Competition team, formed in 2012 by a small group of students and passionate volunteers as a club under the local 4-H program office. Check out their website to learn more about Biohazard's complete history.
Between Biohazard's founding in 2012 and the early beginnings of SC2 in 2020, the team continued to grow, learn, and improve.
- 1 regional win
- 3 workspaces
- 9 competition robots
- +6 practice bots
- 15 competitions
- 8-30 students at various points
This momentum pushed the team forward, but nobody could anticipate what was around the corner.
2020 and beyond
2020 was an interesting year for everyone in many different ways. For Biohazard, the year started the same way it always had. An exciting kickoff event in early January, followed by several weeks of robot building. At the end of February, the team made it to their first competition at Myrtle Beach, SC. It was a tough challenge and the team realized that there were several improvements to the robot design that had to take place before their next event in Pittsburgh, PA. Unfortunately, those few weeks between events saw the world change completely. The team never got to compete later that year in 2020 and would not get to return to a regional event until 2022.
With everyone stuck at home, still feeling the itch for competition and realizing the passion the students had, an idea started forming: "Why couldn't we break away from 4-H and start our own program?" At first glance, this question might seem counterproductive, as the original Biohazard website said, we were proud of our partnership with 4-H:
The students of Biohazard 4050 are not only members of FIRST, but are also members of the Franklin County (PA) 4-H Program. Their dual membership gives them a unique perspective and opportunities for local service and outreach within their community. The student’s dedication to each other and their commitment to their community is a testimony to their character, service, and leadership skills. The volunteers and mentors of Biohazard 4050 are very proud of the students, and honored to be a part of their experiences!
Unfortunately, this partnership left the team feeling like there was a lot of future growth being left on the table. Complicated financial management, fundraising limitations, membership rules, and a leadership/organization structure that could not keep pace with the rapidly developing world of STEM all contributed to the group's desire to take a different path. After many meetings, extensive planning sessions, thorough research, and support from Biohazard's parents and mentors, the South Central STEM Collective was born.
South Central STEM Collective
On paper, our mission is very simple: Make STEM opportunities accessible to students of all ages and backgrounds. In practice, this has been a challenge, but we are excited about what the future holds.
The task to "Make STEM opportunities accessible..." comes in a variety of different forms, but our focus is ultimately on the students. To achieve this goal, a very general organization structure was formed:
- "SC2" acts as the umbrella organization
- 501(c)(3) non-profit entity
- Insurance, workspace, and financial management
- Youth protection and volunteer responsibility
- Tool acquisition and training
- Presence in local community
- Clubs are formed under the SC2 entity
- Entirely self-managed and contained
- Own leadership structures, goals, bank accounts, schedules, etc.
- Access to SC2 resources (Internet, tools/equipment, workspace, industry experts, etc.)
- Students, parents, volunteers, and mentors work directly with their respective clubs
- Activities, competitions, external organizations (i.e.: FIRST)
- Club-driven fundraising
This three-tier strategy allows our member clubs to operate independent of SC2 while also being able to benefit from the resources SC2 provides. Although subject to change in time, we believe this approach to STEM education has the potential for incredible impact, not constrained by the motivations of another parent organization.
So what does the future hold? In many ways, the future is really up to the objectives and goals of our member clubs, but our focus has always been the same: "Serve South Central Pennsylvania as "STEM Central" to inspire youth aged K-12 through hands-on education, competitive robotics and drone teams, maker spaces, and community outreach."
It is a long road ahead, but we are excited to get there. Some of our specific goals on the horizon include:
- Operate and maintain a makerspace, enabling individuals to work on personal projects, school assignments, or team building activities without needing to maintain their own shop.
- Secure a permanent location for our workspace, classrooms, and office-space to provide long-term security to our member clubs
- Become a staple in our local community, fostering STEM education where it has not been fully explored
That's the story of SC2, but what about you? Whether you are a student, parent, industry professional, business owner, educator, explorer, or dreamer, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch, we are looking forward to hearing from you.