The Research and Development STEM Learning Exchange
Who We Are
The Research and Development STEM Learning Exchange (RDLE) is a coalition of 40+ cross-sector partner organizations dedicated to educating, recruiting and retaining the next generation of STEM talent for Illinois industry research and development (R&D). We are part of Illinois Pathways, a state-led and federally supported STEM education initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all students.
Illinois currently has $12.5 billion invested in research and development (R&D) through businesses, universities and federal laboratories. By 2018, Illinois anticipates having 320,000 job openings in STEM fields. The dual shortage of students exploring STEM careers in post-secondary education and college graduates pursuing STEM careers will limit Illinois’ ability to fill anticipated job openings and compete in a global marketplace. This presents an opportunity to take action by working across sectors to address this talent gap.
The RDLE’s mission is to spark interest in and prepare students for R&D careers to build a pipeline of professionals that become Illinois’ future innovators. With this aim, RDLE partner organizations collaborate to develop, test and refine high-quality R&D STEM education resources that promote inquiry-based learning, build critical thinking skills and provide perspective on R&D applications within Illinois industry.
Our Three Key Initiatives
The RDLE promotes inquiry-based learning experiences that build critical thinking skills and address problems faced by local Illinois industry, institutions and communities:
- R&D STEM Challenges: Customized, interdisciplinary projects that offer high school students the opportunity to investigate problems relevant to Illinois industry while being supported by STEM professionals
- Mentor Matching Engine: An online platform that connects high school students and their teachers to STEM professionals who provide mentor support through student-led research
- STEM Resource Repository: 100+ high-quality STEM resources created for teachers, students and parents by 50+ Illinois companies and research institutions invested in STEM education
The R&D STEM Coalition was formed in 2011 by a group of advocates, including Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, who were concerned about strengthening the Illinois talent pipeline for research and development careers. Composed of major corporations, research universities, research laboratories, post-secondary education institutions and nonprofits, the Coalition first worked to develop a curriculum framework for research and development (currently available on the STEM Resource Repository).
The R&D Stem Coalition applied to join the Illinois Pathways Initiative’s Learning Exchanges project and was awarded the opportunity to found the State’s R&D STEM Learning Exchange, one of five learning exchanges funded initially by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The R&D STEM Learning Exchange was initiated in mid-2012 with a comprehensive strategic planning process. The 2013-2014 academic year served as the R&D STEM Learning Exchange’s first year of providing services to Illinois schools.