ISTC Illinois Science & Technology Coalition

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.

Our Mission

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

Our History

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.

More Information

Source: Edutopia