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STEM Innovation Award

The STEM Innovation Award is presented in partnership with MESPA and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The new award gives principals the opportunity to share innovative programs and/or projects in their schools. Submitted applications become part of MESPA's STEM Innovation Database, available to MESPA members, helping schools across the state replicate their colleagues’ successes. The Science Museum of Minnesota will provide $300 of programming to the recipient of the award and the recipient will be recognized at MESPA Institute awards banquet – The MESPYs – in February. 

How to Apply:

Any Active-Level MESPA Member can submit a project/program for consideration for the 2022 STEM Innovation Award. Completed application/nomination forms are due November 12, 2021. Send completed applications to mespa@mespa.net.

Click here to see full application information.

In reviewing applications the award committee will look for projects/programs that:

    • Demonstrate impact on school community (solution or outcome oriented)
    • Are replicable
    • Are inclusive and support diversity
    • Are sustainable and/or have potential growth

See examples of past applications in the STEM Innovation Database


  • Who can apply for the award? Any Active Level MESPA Member may apply for the STEM Innovation Award.
  • Can my school submit more than one innovative program/project for consideration? No, schools can only submit one innovate program/project per year.
  • What type of STEM Innovations can be submitted? Any sustainable and/or growth-oriented program/project that encourages and celebrates STEM literacy can be submitted for consideration. See past applications in the STEM Innovation Database. Some examples are:
      • New learning opportunities for students
      • Different and innovative STEM teaching methods
      • Different and innovative forms of measuring STEM outcomes
      • STEM professional development and coaching opportunities for educators
      • In-School or Out-of-School STEM experience(s) for students
      • Engaging families or community partners in STEM curriculum

Congratulations to our 2021 STEM Innovation Award Winner: The Aspen Academy Penguin Corps

Stu Keroff, a social studies teacher at Aspen Academy, started the Penguin Corps Linux club in the fall of 2019 to teach students about Linux OS and how to use free open source software. The Penguin Corps (named after the mascot of Linux) also learned to disassemble and refurbish computers, a skill which became indispensable when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in March of 2020.

Once the pandemic hit and schools were forced into distance learning, Aspen Academy was faced with the challenge of ensuring all their students would be able to learn while staying safely at home. Jiskra wrote, “Stu Keroff began an online appeal through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the local paper to help source old laptops that the club could refurbish. 1 STEM Innovation Award, Aspen Academy Within five weeks, the club provided over 60 computers to families—closing the digital divide.”

In August 2020, rising cases of COVID-19 mandated that Aspen Academy change course from an in-person learning plan to hybrid learning. They decided to teach their hybrid classes synchronously, meaning students scheduled to be at home would be taking classes live with their peers in the school building. With this model even more students would be in need of computers for the school year. The Penguin Corps stepped up, and helped provide over 300 computers to their community, allowing more students to learn remotely and saving hundreds of old computers from the landfill.

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