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What We Do

Department of Defense STEM Education and Outreach

The Department of Defense established the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) in 2019 as a collaborative partnership between academia, industry, not-for-profit organizations, and government that aims to broaden STEM literacy and develop a diverse and agile workforce to power the United States’ innovative defense infrastructure. DSEC’s strategy is grounded in five consortium fundamentals to which all programming and activities align:

1. Engage students and teachers in meaningful STEM experiences
2. Serve students who are military-connected and underrepresented in STEM
3. Connect students to the DoD STEM workforce
4. Leverage the network as a force multiplier
5. Evolve the approach based on data

BEST is one of three non-profits that comprise the management team of DSEC.  The lead organization is the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), which manages the Consortium as a whole, its communication component, and a research component, an alumni study of participants of DoD-funded STEM programs.  The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is responsible for evaluating the overall impact of the DSEC initiative.  BEST monitors, coordinates, and supports the work of DSEC’s current roster of 24 strategic outreach partners and three Hubs across the nation.  BEST’s work accounts for 80% of the Consortium budget.

BEST’s responsibilities within the DSEC framework are primarily operational.  Having developed much of the strategic underpinning set out in RTI’s DSEC proposal, including the three regional Hubs that serve as test beds of collaboration, our responsibility is to facilitate execution of the DSEC strategy on the front lines of STEM education and outreach.  This effort focuses on building close working relationships with a diverse cadre of independent partners that engage students and teachers in different STEM content areas inside and outside the classroom, and virtually.  Aligning, connecting, and monitoring these efforts underscores the Consortium’s interest in creating a culture of collaboration that promotes greater success for DoD-sponsored STEM education initiatives across the nation.

Department of Defense Education and Workforce Development for Advanced Manufacturing

The Department of Defense, Department of Energy and Department of Commerce joined forces in 2014 to create a network of public-private institutes, each focusing on a different advanced manufacturing technology area. Focus areas include additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, photonics, tissue-engineered medical devices, flexible hybrid electronics, materials processing, and advanced functional fabrics.  The institutes bring together more than 1900 member organizations representing manufacturers of all sizes, the education sector, specialized service providers, and other entities.

The DoD Manufacturing Technology Program commissioned BEST with developing a plan to evaluate the Education and Workforce Development (EWD) programs of eight DoD-funded institutes.   In 2020, BEST developed a protocol and conducted interviews to create a baseline understanding of the institutes’ goals, program activities, audiences, collaboration, and Covid adjustments.  In 2021, BEST will design an evaluation framework to analyze the collective impact that the institutes are making to build national workforce capacity in advanced manufacturing.