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19 school districts receive additional STEM BEST funds

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council directed additional support toward 19 STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) Program partners through the STEM BEST Program Enhancement Fund.

More than $180,000 was awarded to the 19 different STEM BEST program partners, for requests ranging from 4,589 to $10,000. The funds will help enhance work-based learning opportunities made available through school and business partnerships during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Since it began in 2014, he Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council has awarded 63 STEM BEST Programs to school districts throughout the state

The STEM BEST Program Enhancement Fund supports previously awarded STEM BEST Programs that demonstrated evidence of how the funds would enrich or expand current STEM BEST Programs, strengthen partnerships, enhance experiences for students and increase participation of students of diversity.

Recipients of the STEM BEST Program Enhancement Fund include:

  • Allamakee Community School District ($10,000)
  • Ankeny Community School District ($10,000)
  • Boone Community School District ($10,000)
  • CAM Community School District ($10,000)
  • Cedar Falls Community School District ($10,000)
  • Central Community School District ($4,589.16)
  • Davenport West Community School District ($10,000)
  • IKM-Manning Community School District ($10,000 – high school, $9,888 – middle school)
  • Charles City, New Hampton, Osage and Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School Districts ($10,000)
  • Keokuk Community School District ($6,563.12)
  • Marshalltown Community School District ($10,000)
  • Newton Community School District ($9,195)
  • Rock Valley Community School District ($10,000)
  • Sioux City Community School District ($9,995)
  • Southwest Valley School District ($10,000)
  • St. Theresa Catholic School of Des Moines ($9,937.65)
  • Waukee Community School District ($10,000)
  • Woodbine Community School District ($10,000)
19 school districts receive additional STEM BEST funds | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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