DoD STEM and Dayton, Ohio: A Winning Combination

24 Jul 2023

Dayton Regional STEM Center Connects Hundreds Dedicated to Elevating STEM Education for All

DSEC Partner Dayton Regional STEM Center serves the community as a dynamic connector and developer of quality STEM programs involving more than 500 STEM professionals in industry, education and government in the greater Dayton, Ohio area.

Attendees explore the Do STEM Future Fair in Dayton, OH.

Attendees explore the Do STEM Future Fair in Dayton, OH.

“One of the things I like to think about STEM is that it not only stands for science, technology, engineering and math, but also for strategies that engage minds,” says Dayton Regional STEM Center (DRSC) Director Jessica Short. “Our STEM center serves as a force multiplier for our students. We believe there are STEM possibilities for everyone. Our role is to make these opportunities available.”

The Defense Department supports STEM education with a similar mindset. The Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) has designed regional hubs for education outreach in Dayton, Ohio; San Diego, California; the Greater Washington, DC region: and San Antonio, Texas for this purpose. DRSC is a professional development institute that serves as a regional clearinghouse for information regarding STEM activities and summer camps, awards programs, and teacher professional development, plus internships and research opportunities for teachers and students.

Short shared that DRSC collaborated with MCESC (Montgomery County Education Service Center) to provide an alternative pathway for students facing expulsion from school. “We noticed an increase in expelled students as they returned to classrooms after the pandemic school closures,” said Short. “So, in September 2022 we opened The Future Self Center to provide a place for these vulnerable students to continue their education.”

With financial support from DoD STEM through DRSC, The Future Self Center was able to include maker spaces that included audio/visual recording capabilities, drones, robotics, building materials and tools, plus 3-D printers to assist students in designed and building projects – while at the same time exposing them to STEM through engineering design principals.

“Our goal is for students to leave the Center and return to school confident in their ability to ‘do STEM,” said Short. “Our center utilizes social-emotional learning tools to teach students that STEM is everywhere, and they too can participate.”

Short remembers one student who didn’t want to be involved at first but whose eyes lit up bright when discussing gardening with his grandmother. Some areas of Dayton are “food deserts,” or neighborhoods without full-service grocery stores. This student was able to work with an AmeriCorps Maker Fellow provided by another DSEC partner, Citizen Schools, to research, design, and build a hydroponic structure for growing food – and learn how STEM can help his community in the process.

Other DRSC programs include the Future Fair where hundreds of students and their families have fun while learning about STEM careers with hands-on activities and other interactive opportunities provided by local industry and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Attendees explore the Do STEM Future Fair in Dayton, OH

Through the “DO STEM Does Dayton” tours, AFRL and industry STEM professionals welcome area educators to learn about career opportunities and showcase the exciting projects they work on – while making direct connections between subjects students learn in school and future careers. One high school senior during the tour of their local Career Tech Center, shares her experience in the unmanned aerial vehicle certification program for making her aware of the many career opportunities available to her upon graduation. During the program she was invited to fly drones for the fire service. Upon graduation she plans to join the Ohio National Guard.

These are just a few of the many STEM education programs and opportunities available through the Dayton Regional STEM Center. More information can be found at

“My advice for students who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM, or even just thinking about it, is to dive in and explore!” said Short. “Be open to all of the possibilities!”

About DoD STEM and Defense STEM Education Consortium

Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) is a collaborative partnership of STEM-focused organizations dedicated to addressing and prioritizing our nation's STEM talent. DSEC aims to broaden STEM literacy and develop a diverse and agile workforce with the technical excellence to defend our nation. Through strategic investment in STEM education and outreach activities, the effort will provide students with more exposure to educational and career opportunities as well as DoD research. DSEC is led on behalf of DoD STEM by RTI International.

About Dayton Regional STEM Center

The Dayton Regional STEM Center (DRSC) coordinates an established network of regional institutions and professionals that provide rich opportunities for STEM education by training and supporting educators, designing curriculum aligned with workforce needs, training school leaders at the district and building level and supporting schools and program models committed to STEM teaching and learning. DRSC serves as a hub location for building pathways into STEM careers in defense installations, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Dayton, Ohio area.