8 Innovative Student STEM Destinations

Students with an interest in science and math are attracted to these innovative U.S. cities.

In the past decade, an insufficient number of American students have been pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM fields. Occupations in STEM are crucial for our nation in continuing its path to innovation and economic success. President Obama implemented a plan to increase the number of students and teachers proficient in these fields. The plan aims to educate students about STEM at a young age and sustain engagement as they grow older.

Miami

Miami attracts students with its Caribbean-influenced culture, flashy restaurants, shops and beautiful beaches. Besides being a popular tourist destination, Miami is also home to summer programs that encourage underserved communities to explore their career options in STEM-related fields.

  • Frost Museum of Science

    A popular attraction among STEM student groups is the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, conveniently located adjacent to the Perez Art Museum. The science museum just had the grand opening of its new complex, which includes fun exhibits like the “Curious Vault” and “Feathers to the Stars.” The latter exhibit carries its visitors through the evolution of animal flight to the process with which humans used engineering to go airborne. The “Curious Vault” showcases a variety of treasured specimens that were donated to the museum by members of the community.

  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is another Miami facility that features a multitude of programs that are bound to excite student groups interested in science, technology, math and engineering. The STEMLab at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a former school bus that has been transformed into a fully-functioning botanical lab for student use. The Botanic Garden also offers internships, scholarships and a volunteer group called Fairchild’s Young Professionals that combines conservation efforts and social events.
  • Wacky Wild Science is a company based in Miami that brings STEM programs such as engineering, robotics, geology and anatomy to summer camps, schools, museums and even birthday parties.
  • The Miami Science Barge is a must-see attraction for all students interested in sustainability. The floating marine laboratory and education center displays Miami’s unique ecology and educates STEM students about the importance of conservation to work towards a sustainable future. The barge includes solar panels, hydroponic systems and an innovation lab as well as special events and professional guest speakers.
  • The University of Miami is another institution dedicated to educating students about the significance of ecology. Through its Summer Scholars research program high school students, participants can earn college credit while learning about their specific STEM interests in a fast-paced environment. High school juniors can apply for the JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship Program in biological and computational sciences and can participate in a challenging research course alongside University of Miami faculty. Younger students visit UM on DNA Day, a public education event that utilizes hands-on exhibits and presentations to celebrate the completion of the human genome.

Houston

Nicknamed the “Space City,” Houston is known as a hub for science and technology and is consequently an ideal destination for STEM students. Along with local programs such as STEM Scouts, the assortment of museums and observatories make the city a popular destination for student tour groups

  • STEM Scouts Houston

    STEM Scouts Houston

    Among the attractions is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which contains a variety of exhibits from the basics of chemistry to ancient Egypt. The museum holds one of the largest collections of gems and minerals in the U.S. as well as North America’s largest dinosaur hall, with skeletons and fossils throughout.

  • The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center encompasses America’s space flight program through live presentations and behind-the-scenes tours. The Space Center has a replica of a shuttle that students can climb aboard. They can also view historical artifacts and touch a real-life moon rock.
  • The University of Houston STEM Center is another fantastic resource for students considering a career in a STEM field. High school and middle school students can enroll in summer camps and classes at the STEM center as well as attend educational events such as the Science Engineering Fair of Houston and UH Mathematics Contest.
  • The after-school classes and summer programs at American Robotics Academy are perfect for any children in grades K-12 who are interested in robotics and engineering. The programs not only teach students how to design, build and test robots but also how to creatively use technology and work well in teams. Houston is abundant with acclaimed science camps such as Wonder-Space Technology Camp, Tech It Out and Robots-4-U that all cater to students interested in learning more about the STEM field and applying that knowledge. Wonder-Space Technology Camp offers multiple camps to suit students’ knowledge levels and interests such as an engineering program, a coding camp and a robotics curriculum.
  • For students intrigued by nature and wildlife, the Arboretum and Nature Center is a 155-acre nature sanctuary containing forest trails, ponds and prairie habitats.
  • The city’s iFly indoor skydiving center is among the many attractions that offer educational programs specifically for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. At iFly, groups of all ages will experience a compelling, interactive presentation, demonstrations in the wind tunnel and a grade-appropriate lab activity that ranges from learning about force to calculating velocities.

Seattle

A charming city with ample parkland and evergreen forests, Seattle is known for its picturesque landscape and large technology industry.

  • Youth Ocean Advocates

    Youth Ocean Advocates

    The Pacific Science Center is resource for STEM student groups in Seattle that offers camps, volunteer programs and internship opportunities. For students interested in biology and environmental sciences, apply for the Youth Ocean Advocates program at the Seattle Aquarium. Participants will learn about the marine environment, conservation techniques, take part in volunteer projects to educate Seattle’s public, create a social media campaign and clean up beaches.

  • Make sure to stop by the University of Washington to explore its many Summer Youth Programs for STEM students as well as tour its Biology Greenhouse. The University of Washington’s abundant pre-college programs focus on educating future leaders in STEM fields and exposing students to challenging, interactive activities.
  • STEM students will appreciate a trip to Seattle’s famous Museum of Flight to participate in the Aerospace Camp Experience, which offers camps for students of all ages who are interested in the sciences.
  • For student groups interested in computer science, book a field trip at Living Computers Museum and Labs to learn more about coding and the history of computers. TechKnowHow, Camp Invention and Camp BIOmed are more fantastic options for STEM students looking for engaging and educational camps in the Seattle area. The weeklong camps at TechKnowHow give your students the chance to study programming, robotics and game design while maintaining a fun environment and fostering campers’ career dreams.

Chicago

With such a variety of educational attractions and activities for students, it’s no wonder that Chicago is such a popular destination for those interested in STEM subjects.

  • Adler Planetarium

    Adler Planetarium

    The Museum of Science and Industry may be the largest Chicago attraction for STEM students, providing engaging science experiences for both students and teachers. The Adler Planetarium is a popular place that opens students’ eyes to the wonders of astronomy and the universe. Students can visit the Adler’s newest exhibition, “Chasing Eclipses,” where they’ll be immersed in a spine-tingling experience of a solar eclipse. The planetarium is part of Chicago’s Museum Campus, which includes the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. This exposure to astronomy, aquatics and natural history guarantees that some aspects of these museums will spark students’ interest.

  • The Science Career Continuum at the Chicago Botanic Garden in suburban Chicago is a fantastic resource for students, as it helps connect high school and middle school students with companies offering internships or mentorship programs in science fields. The Botanic Garden also offers teacher programs on a weekly basis that often involve STEM fields such as engineering.
  • Like the Botanic Garden, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle is a public garden and outdoor museum that offers a science camp for students.
  • The Galileo Summer Quest in Chicago Lincoln Park allows campers from fifth to eighth grade to choose a “major” and immerse themselves in a topic such as video game design.
  • Another exciting STEM attraction in the Chicago area is Fermilab, a national laboratory in Batavia that specializes in particle physics. Fermilab hosts a STEM career expo every year – an event where high school students can meet experts in the STEM fields and ask questions about their career paths.
  • Along with these attractions are great student programs that encourage young leaders of the future from across the nation to come check out what Chicago has to offer. Chicago’s Loyola University has paired up with iD Tech Camp to offer overnight field trips for STEM students interested in experiencing a college lifestyle. They’ll eat at the dining halls and sleep overnight in dorms while learning about coding, apps, game design and more.
  • Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago is another university that provides high school, middle school and elementary school students with the opportunity to learn about STEM fields in a fast-paced, challenging environment. IIT offers camps and courses like the Computer Discovery Camp for Girls and Global Leaders Program for students interested in learning more about STEM fields.

Huntsville

Known as the location where early rocket scientist Dr. Werner von Braun developed a major manned space program, Huntsville earns its nickname “Rocket City.”

  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center

    U.S. Space and Rocket Center

    The U.S. Space and Rocket Center attracts students to Huntsville because it is home to one of the greatest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world. The center contains interactive exhibits, hosts events and engages with children during space camps. It also has a variety of group field trip options (typically weekend-long programs) such as “The Ultimate Field Trip,” “Daily Space Adventure” and a “Youth Leadership Retreat.”

  • Cummings Research Park is a science and technology business park with a mixture of Fortune 500 companies, local and international high-tech enterprises and higher-education institutions. The park is spread over five acres, and tech trolley tours are offered for visitors to gain awareness of the park’s main functions and recent additions of outdoor amenities and greenways.
  • Girls Incorporated of Huntsville is an organization that empowers young women to become bold and successful in technical areas of study that tend to be dominated by men. Female students travel to Huntsville specifically for its internship program as well as shorter one-day briefing sessions, which provide life-skills training that will prepare them for STEM-related careers.
  • The HudsonAlpha Institiute for Biotechnology specializes in genomics and is a leading area for discovery in the biosciences. Visiting students can participate in tours of the facility as well as sit in on seminars. The institute even offers a free public seminar called Biotech 101 that aims to educate attendees about how biotechnology affects everyday life.
  • To excite students about STEM fields, check out the unique field trip opportunities at the Carousel Skate Center. Professional STEM teachers present lectures about the science of roller skating, the study of motion and how acoustics work. Plus, students will be rewarded with two hours of roller skating time.
  • Visiting students also like Huntsville Botanical Gardens, consisting of an open-air butterfly house, a bamboo garden and a space garden. This 112-acre greenhouse filled with ferns, vegetables and aquatic plants provides a peaceful retreat.

San Francisco/Silicon Valley

The technology hub of the United States is host to a great deal of science, technology, engineering and mathematics-friendly destinations.

  • Computer History Museum

    Computer History Museum

    Satisfy any curiosity for technology of the past by taking a trip to the Computer History Museum. Visitors have the opportunity to start at the very beginning of the computer and walk through the journey of innovation all the way to modern-day models and usage. While the Computer History Museum lacks interactive opportunities, it offers plenty of information students with a hunger for technology will devour.

  • The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose is a family-friendly facility that aims to create a hands-on science and technology experience. Through the doors of the award-winning museum, students can find Bio Design and tech studios, the chance to create their own robot and other interactive exhibits.
  • In San Francisco, students can take on interactive adventures at the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium encourages creativity and hopes to trigger curiosity in visitors. Students will find themselves among hundreds of “choose your own adventure” exhibits that the Exploratorium hopes will guide them to think for themselves and ask questions. Different shows and events pertaining to the exhibits are offered at the museum to further enhance the experience.
  • Students can also take a trip into the heart of Intel Headquarters to visit the Intel Museum. Here, visitors can witness decades of innovation beginning with the first memory chip all the way to new manufacturing technologies.
  • The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco features the company’s work, a display of pioneering design and inventive engineering from around the world. The gallery was named a top museum destination by Wired and the San Francisco Chronicle. Students are attracted by the gallery’s vibrant, interactive exhibits as well as its free admission and guided tours.
  • Students visiting the University of California’s Lick Observatory in San Jose to will learn about the largest telescope in the world and can engage in a star-gazing program.

Columbus

Columbus has been named a top city for STEM grads and ranked 21st in the nation for best areas for STEM professionals by finance website Wallethub. Because of such accolades, STEM teaching staffs promote Columbus as a top destination for student tour groups

  • COSI Museum

    COSI Museum

    Among the largest STEM outreach programs in the U.S. is the COSI Museum, an acronym for “Center of Science and Industry”. COSI offers lab field trips, video conferencing programs and camp-in overnight programs popular with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Some of COSI’s classic exhibits include “Energy Explorers” and “Progress.” “Energy Explorers” teaches students about how energy powers the world around us, while “Progress” takes visitors back in time and allows them to interact with technology from 1898 and 1962.

  • Similar to COSI, The Works is a midsized interactive museum. COSI is larger, but The Works also offers many hands-on activities with more local Columbus history. Featuring interactive science labs such as a go lab, inventing lab and zap lab, the museum allows students to tinker with electricity, building and design. Through the go lab, guests are offered the opportunity to create their own car and test it out through a driving simulator.
  • The Ohio State University Planetarium provides a free educational experience into outer space. Trigger student interest in astronomy by reserving a seat in the 30-foot digital dome and taking a trip into the stars. The Ohio State Planetarium offers different shows featuring specific parts of the solar system and various constellations. For a cheap, educational evening, the planetarium is an ideal place for students to delve into the depths of the unknown.
  • Makerspace is a phenomenon sweeping schools across the country, as they have begun adding them to their Learning Resource Centers.  A Makerspace is a place where students can create and build. They often include 3D printers, tools and computers for students to tinker with creation throughout the day. Columbus Idea Foundry takes Makerspace to the next level with its warehouse filled with everything one could need to create items straight out of their imagination. While you need a membership to have full access to all the tools within Columbus Idea Foundry, the public can still take tours of the three-floor warehouse and sign up for classes. Students can learn how to carve, make molds, use a 3D printer and weld. You name it—Columbus Idea Foundry is there to make ideas come to life.

Tampa

Florida’s second-largest metro area boasts thriving oceanography institutes, research universities and tech companies willing to share their knowledge with inquisitive student minds.

  • Florida Aquarium

    Florida Aquarium

    The Florida Aquarium, a leader in conservation and education, hosts field trips for students and families visiting the area.  They’ll enter interactive rooms with simulations that stimulate hands-on learning and exploration. On the aquarium’s Florida Wetlands Trail, your students will encounter alligators, Great Blue Herons and even Burmese Pythons, while they can spot lemurs and tortoises in “Journey to Madagascar.”

  • A favorite with student tour groups in Tampa is the children’s science center at MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry). Exhibits in this section of the museum feature activities such as making a movie or operating a lunar colony in the “Mission: Moonbase” exhibit. Other highlights include “Weathering the Storm,” where students can experience a simulated Florida hurricane like NOAA researchers, and the Saunders Planetarium, which can accurately project a night sky to match anywhere on Earth.
  • The Florida Institute of Oceanography, hosted by the University of South Florida, launches its fleet of research vessels from Bayboro Harbor in downtown Saint Petersburg. Educational programs allow students to embark on a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico and learn about the university’s marine sciences program. While aboard, they can collect crustacean samples, view migratory species through portholes and learn about environmental efforts to protect the Gulf Coast.
  • The Florida Aquarium, a leader in conservation and education, hosts field trips for students and families visiting the area.  They’ll enter interactive rooms with simulations that stimulate hands-on learning and exploration. On the aquarium’s Florida Wetlands Trail, your students will encounter alligators, Great Blue Herons and even Burmese Pythons, while they can spot lemurs and tortoises in “Journey to Madagascar.”
  • An appealing destination for visiting students is the Dali Museum, which contains the largest collection of Salvador Dali art pieces outside of Europe. Just looking at this breathtaking piece of architecture from the outside will activate students’ brainpower and leave them asking themselves what mechanics, physics and/or mathematical skills were needed to build such a structure.
  • Busch Gardens –an African-themed nature attractions—is a popular STEM stop and one of the largest theme parks in Florida. Students can both explore immersive animal enclosures like the Edge of Africa walk-through attraction and experience a thrill on roller coasters such as Montu and Kumba.
Summary
8 Innovative Student STEM Destinations
Article Name
8 Innovative Student STEM Destinations
Description
Houston, Huntsville, Seattle, Tampa, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Columbus have earned special recognition due to their outstanding STEM attractions and programs. Student travel groups will find much to discover in each of these eight cities.
Author
Premier Travel Media