A Parent’s Guide To SciTech Institute and Their Student CSO Program

By Brittany Sweeney-Lawson

In an era defined by technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs, parents play a crucial role in nurturing their child’s curiosity and passion for learning. SciTech Institute strives to support you in this evolving endeavor by offering innovative programs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that not only educate but also inspire young minds.

This comprehensive guide is designed to help you as a parent become familiar with the impact of SciTech Institute on potential opportunities for your children and explore the transformative Chief Science Officers (CSO) program.

SciTech Institute: Shaping Future Innovators

Vision and Mission

SciTech Institute seeks to establish a prosperous and equitable world where STEM is within reach of everyone — after, all, STEM is everywhere, and affects everything! With a visionary mission to engage and connect communities to transform lives through STEM, SciTech aims to create a society that not only embraces but thrives on the acknowledgment and integration of STEM in education, the workforce, our communities, and even within our personal and family lives.


Holistic Learning Approach

At the heart of SciTech Institute’s philosophy is a commitment to providing holistic learning experiences. Through a blend of community events, hands-on learning, mentorship programs, and collaborative projects, SciTech fosters a love for STEM subjects that extends into real-world applications.


Arizona SciTech Festival: Introducing STEM To All Ages

Introduces STEAM to All Ages

The Arizona SciTech Festival, now in its 13th year, is a statewide celebration of STEM that aims to inspire and engage people of all ages, with a particular focus on encouraging young minds to explore the wonders of STEM fields. The festival serves as a platform to showcase the innovation and creativity that define Arizona’s robust STEM education and outreach programs statewide.

For kids and parents eager to get involved, the festival offers many exciting opportunities. From Signature events like the Buckeye Air Show, and the Renaissance Festival, to SciTech Adventure events held at K-12 schools, there is a way for everyone to participate and most importantly of all —have fun! You can expect to enjoy hands-on activities, attend interactive workshops, visit STEM organization booths, and witness captivating demonstrations led by STEM professionals. From robotics and coding to astronomy and environmental science, the festival covers a broad spectrum of STEM topics, fostering a sense of curiosity and discovery among young (and young at heart) attendees.

Schools, families, and communities can collaborate with the festival to organize events that bring STEM education to life. By engaging in these activities, kids not only gain valuable knowledge and skills but also develop a passion for STEM that may influence their future career paths. The Arizona SciTech Festival creates an inclusive and dynamic environment where children can explore, learn, and find awe in wonders that are both new and familiar.


Chief Science Officers Program: Empowering Student Leaders

Chief Science Officers are 6-12th grade students, elected by their peers to serve as STEM ambassadors in their schools and communities.

The Chief Science Officers program is a flagship initiative of SciTech Institute launched in 2015. Chief Science Officers (CSOs) are 6-12th grade students, elected by their peers, to serve as STEM leaders and ambassadors in their schools and communities.

A core goal of the program is to place youth squarely at the center of STEM awareness, promotion, experience, and community action. The CSO program works to create a global network of diverse STEM youth leaders, foster communication and collaboration among CSOs, enrich STEM culture and career awareness, and amplify student voice in community STEM conversations.


Fostering Leadership Skills

The distinctive aspect of the CSO program is its emphasis on developing leadership skills in students. Through a structured curriculum, mentorship opportunities, and exposure to real-world challenges, participating students not only deepen their understanding of STEM but also emerge as leaders within their peer groups and communities.

Each year, students in the program begin with a Leadership Training Institute (LTI) where they learn program basics and begin to develop their Action Plans. These Action Plans are meant to meaningfully engage their peers and communities in STEM. During the year, CSOs are supported through cabinet meetings, advisors, and the CSO team.


Encouraging a Passion for STEM

As a parent, seeing your child develop a genuine passion for STEM subjects is a rewarding experience. The CSO program is designed to ignite and sustain this passion by providing a dynamic and engaging learning environment. Students not only learn about STEM and its function in their lives and communities, but also how to share their knowledge and passion with others.

While the CSO program initially started out with cabinets in Arizona only, it has since spread to 15 states and six countries. This is a huge testament to the hard work and character of the CSOs and demonstrates the power of a supportive network of dedicated mentors, business leaders, educators, and STEM professionals to guide them.


Parental Involvement: Nurturing a Love for Learning

Your involvement in your child’s educational journey is invaluable. Understanding the challenges and triumphs your child experiences within the CSO program allows you to provide them with the necessary support and encouragement. Regular communication with your child and their mentors can provide insights into their growth and development.

Sometimes, students may struggle with completing stages of their action plan on time, which is ok! While you are encouraged to act as a cheerleader for your child and encourage them to check emails, their Google Classroom, and offer gentle reminders for assignments, you are also not expected to step in and do the work for them. Students grow into becoming strong and compassionate leaders by learning and growing from their mistakes.


Supporting STEM Exploration at Home

SciTech Institute recognizes the importance of parental involvement in nurturing a love for STEM. The CSO program encourages students to share their experiences and projects with their families, fostering a collaborative approach to learning.

Parents can further support STEM exploration at home by engaging in science experiments, discussing STEM-related topics in the news, the latest in technological advancements, and exploring STEM-related activities, such as museums, zoos, and libraries, together.


Success Stories: Your Child’s Journey

Personalized Growth and Achievements

Becoming a CSO means becoming someone who is constantly reaching for new heights and meeting challenges head-on. Impressively, each CSO’s Action Plan impacts 120+ people on average. For over 70% of CSOs, their Action Plan is a new school activity, meaning they are invigorating their learning environments from within.

But how do CSOs themselves feel about the program? When asked, 95% rated their overall experience as good, very good, or excellent. As for those who collaborate with the program and interact with CSOs, 90% ranked their experiences with CSOs as very good or excellent, with 75% interested in sharing information about the program with their associates. Because these student leaders make an impactful impression, it encourages adults and kids alike to follow their example.


The Importance of Student Voice

CSO Action Plans run the gamut—from putting on STEM Improv Nights to planting community gardens; from hosting Digital STEM Career Days to starting science clubs—the options are as limitless as the minds that make them happen.

“Through the program, I have had the opportunity to explore and learn from experts in diverse STEM fields, including interacting with an expert in sustainability and plastics packaging,” shares Daylia, an active CSO participant and supporter.

Daylia believes the program has played a significant role in helping her learn how to advocate for STEM in her community and has enhanced her skills as a student leader in STEM as a result.


Addressing Parental Concerns: Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Program Appropriate for All Students?

The CSO program is designed to be inclusive, welcoming students with varying levels of interest and ability in STEM subjects. The focus is on fostering a love for learning and providing opportunities for growth.


What is the Role of Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are crucial components of a well-rounded, safe organization. SciTech Institute, in alignment with its commitment to community impact, focuses on promoting diversity within its programs.

Parents like you, who recognize the importance of a diverse STEM community as well as supporting equal access to opportunities for all, are key to ensuring SciTech can implement these initiatives throughout all outreach efforts.


How Can Parents Get Involved?

Parents can get involved by staying informed about their child’s activities, attending informational sessions organized by the Chief Science Officers program, and actively taking part in community events. SciTech encourages a collaborative approach to education, where parents and educators work together to support students.


What Long-Term Benefits Can Parents Expect?

Participating in SciTech Institute’s programs, particularly the CSO initiative, can have long-term benefits for students. These may include enhanced critical thinking skills, improved problem-solving abilities, preparation for entering the STEM workforce, and a heightened sense of responsibility towards community and global issues.


Community Impact: Beyond the Classroom Walls

Local Initiatives and Partnerships

SciTech Institute’s commitment to community engagement goes hand in hand with its educational programs. As a parent, knowing SciTech collaborates with local organizations, businesses, and schools that are invested in keeping time with the ever-changing landscape of the future of workforce can provide insights into the broader impact of your child’s career path.

Additionally, while your child’s interests often develop and change as they grow, it’s never too early to start encouraging their curiosity through community involvement. By tapping into what motivates them personally, you can expand their horizons by looking into how other people and groups are already involved in similar endeavors. This reinforces the idea that STEM involvement is not just an individual pursuit but a collective effort to learn more about and positively affect the outcomes for us as humans and the world we live in.

If you need ideas of where and how to get started finding opportunities, head over to the SciTech Institute resources page: https://scitechinstitute.org/resources/


Changemakers in STEM Virtual Youth Congress

In May 2023, Chief Science Officer Alumna Freya Abraham spoke to a standing-room only audience at the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice in Florida that it was time to listen to youth about real world issues—issues that will affect the lives of her and her peers.

She envisioned creating space for voices like hers to be heard, and where a path to action would be possible. Now, through the 2024 Changemakers in STEM Virtual Youth Congress, Freya’s vision is being realized.

This means student voices will be heard, and their ideas seen and put into action. In three virtual sessions focusing on the themes of Sustainability, Tech for Good, Aerospace Engineering, and A.I., hundreds of students from around the globe will gather to learn from professionals and peers, design their initiative with their team, and finally, share their ideals with global leaders.

To learn more and for student registration for the Changemakers Congress, visit: https://bit.ly/STEM4CHANGE


Looking Ahead: The Future of SciTech Institute

As a parent, you may be curious about the future of SciTech Institute and the CSO program. Exploring SciTech’s vision for scalability and potential new programs can provide insights into the plans to reach more students and further enrich STEM education, programs, and outreach.

Visit the website at www.scitechinstitute.org to check out what’s going on now and what’s in the works!

Staying Informed

Stay connected with SciTech Institute through newsletters, updates, and community events. Being informed about ongoing initiatives ensures you can actively support your child’s educational journey and stay engaged with their development.

Reach out to contactus@scitechinstitute.org to request to be added to our newsletter list or to ask any questions you may have. For questions specific to the CSO program, email contactus@chiefscienceofficers.org

Now You’re in the Know!

SciTech Institute is proud to be one of the dynamic forces shaping the future of STEM education in Arizona and beyond. It’s a privilege to join you and your child on whatever exciting leg of the STEM journey you’re on. It’s a lifelong trip with endless discoveries and rewards.

Embrace the opportunity to foster a love for learning, encourage exploration in STEM fields, and witness the transformation of your child into a confident, curious, and capable individual ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. Your efforts now are an investment in their incredible potential.

Brittany Sweeney-Lawson is the Marketing & Communications Manager for SciTech Institute. SciTech Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing and promoting STEM education and awareness in Arizona and beyond.