Integrate STEM

The STEM Challenge is a hands-on project that develops students' understanding of the interconnections between STEM, society, and the natural world—core concepts from the Next Generation Science standards (NGSS). The project engages media, information and technology literacy, and other 21st century skills from the Partnership for 21st Century Standards (P21).

In the end, students will not only get to explore a variety of STEM careers but be better prepared for the future global economy by developing valuable learning and innovation skills.

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences released the Next Generation Science standards (NGSS) which lay out the disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts that students should master in preparation for college and careers.

Below are key definitions and concepts that we pulled from the NGSS. You can discuss these core ideas with students as they start to develop their projects. For the full document, visit

Definitions of Technology, Engineering, and Applications of Science

Technology is any modification of the natural world made to fulfill human needs or desires.

Engineering is a systematic and often iterative approach to designing objects, processes, and systems to meet human needs and wants.

An Application of Science is any use of scientific knowledge for a specific purpose, whether to do more science; to design a product, process, or medical treatment; to develop a new technology; or to predict the impacts of human actions.

Core and Component Ideas in the Physical Sciences

Core Idea PS1: Matter and its Interactions
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
PS1.C: Nuclear Processes

Core Idea PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
PS2.A: Forces and Motion
PS2.B: Types of Interactions
PS2.C: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems

Core Idea PS3: Energy
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy
PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces
PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

Core Idea PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
PS4.A: Wave Properties
PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation
PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation.

Core and Component Ideas in the Life Sciences

Core Idea LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
LS1.A: Structure and Function
LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
LS1.D: Information Processing

Core Idea LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
LS2.C: Ecosystems Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior

Core Idea LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits
LS3.B: Variation of Traits

Core Idea LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity
LS4.B: Natural Selection
LS4.C: Adaptation
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

Core and Component Ideas in Earth and Space Sciences

Core Idea ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars
ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth

Core Idea ESS2: Earth’s Systems
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes
ESS2.D: Weather and Climate
ESS2.E: Biocenology

Core Idea ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
ESS3.A: Natural Resources
ESS3.B: Natural Hazards
ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
ESS3.D: Global Climate Change

Core and Component Ideas in Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

Core Idea ETS1: Engineering Design
ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Core Idea ETS2: Links among Engineering, Technology, Science, and Society
ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

Seven Crosscutting Concepts of the Framework

• Patterns
• Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation
• Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
• Systems and System Models
• Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation
• Structure and Function
• Stability and Change

Science and Engineering Practices

• Asking Questions and Defining Problems
• Developing and Using Models
• Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
• Analyzing and Interpreting Data
• Using Mathematics, Information and Computer Technology, and Computational Thinking
• Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
• Engaging in Argument from Evidence
• Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


Objective: By following the STEM Design Tool, students will develop a practical understanding of the engineering design process.

Core Idea ETS1: Engineering Design

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem
ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Objective: By researching current LANL projects and scientific experiments for ideas on how they apply to the real world, students will develop an understanding of the interconnections of STEM, society, and the natural world.

Core Idea ETS2: Links Among Engineering, Technology, Science, and Society

ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

Learn more


Objective: By working in self-directed teams to research, evaluate and design media products (poster, video, app, or essay) for this competition, students gain essential skills necessary to succeed in 21st century life and work environments. Students will apply the 4Cs of the 21st century standard: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation.


  • Focuses on 21st century skills, content knowledge, and expertise
  • Builds understanding across and among core subjects and 21st century interdisciplinary themes
  • Emphasizes deep understanding, rather than shallow knowledge
  • Engages students with the real world data, tools, and experts they will encounter in college, on the job, and in life_students learn best when actively engaged in solving meaningful problems
  • Allows for multiple measures of mastery

Learning and Innovation Skills

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Information Literacy
Media Literacy
ICT (Information, Communications & Technology) LITERACY

Learn more

STEMarts Wiki

The Next Generation Science standards, the 21st Century Standards, and the pull toward social media and technology in schools is requiring a major shift in the way content is delivered in the classroom. We know that no matter how exciting the project, the biggest obstacle for integrating new projects into your busy daily schedule is finding the time and figuring out how to balance it all. In this wiki, we have gathered some articles and resources to inspire you and help you understand these new 21st century goals and strategies.

Remember, the wiki-resource is an open forum sharing links and ideas that others have found – always check your sources and give credit where credit is due.  The open-source movement generously shares its knowledge and relies on users' and sharers' feedback – so if there’s something that is really good  or that doesn’t work, let others know.  If you find something that you want to share with your friends or the world, enter the title in the search bar, and it will ask if you want to add a new page. Select and enter a short description with a link to the page you want to share. Don't forget to add keywords to help people find it through the Tag Cloud. Thanks!