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tennessee technological university

Millard Oakley STEM Center

The Millard Oakley STEM Center is the product of years of planning, dreaming, and developing valuable partnerships with government and education agencies, business and industry fields, and with the regional community and beyond. Our focus is on enhancing, improving and impacting the way STEM subjects are taught, made accessible to students, and how those experiences are evaluated and studied.


The Oakley STEM Center supports innovative teaching and dynamic learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


  • The Oakley STEM Center enriches Pre-Kindergarten to University students STEM learning with hands-on inquiry
  • Enhances the STEM preparation of new and practicing Pre-Kindergarten to University teachers
  • Models innovative instructional design and learning environments
  • Conducts rigorous STEM education research
  • Collaborates with industry and organizations to strengthen STEM education initiatives across the region, state, and nation

Core Values

  • STEM literacy is a key component of responsible citizenship.
  • STEM education is the shared responsibility of schools, industry, government, and the public.
  • Our collective embrace of STEM priorities guides future economic growth as a region, state and nation.
  • The STEM pipeline begins in early childhood.
  • All children, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or learning style, can excel in STEM disciplines and can aspire to STEM careers.
  • Effective teaching at all levels utilizes hands-on, minds-on inquiry into the natural world.
  • Effective and innovative STEM teaching, preschool though university, should be recognized and shared.
  • A campus-wide STEM collaboration partnering with lead education agencies, industries, and community organizations fosters economic development in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee.
  • The Oakley STEM Center provides a regional presence for external agencies such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Tennessee STEM Leadership Council.

Outreach Goals

Provide quality professional development (PD) for P–12 (pre-school through 12th grade) STEM teachers based on local needs, aligned with state and national standards, and models best practices in STEM education.

  • Conduct a variety of self-supporting and/or externally funded summer workshops
  • Facilitate year-round support for learning communities and communities of practice
  • Identify exceptional teachers and provide them with training to become professional development providers
  • Work with and through regional schools and lead education agency (LEA) partners and leadership councils to identify emerging needs and design PD to meet those needs for teachers who are expert in both content and pedagogy
  • Invite P-12 educators to hold meetings and workshops in the Center

Provide quality STEM enrichment for students, preschool – high school.

  • Collaborate with directors of existing on-campus and regional summer camps to determine appropriate utilization of STEM Center facilities
  • Conduct self-supporting and/or externally funded summer explorations for targeted groups of students
  • Establish a pre-school STEM enrichment program available to childcare programs and other caregivers
  • Host field trips for area schools
  • Establish a speakers’ bureau to provide timely, standards-aligned enrichment activities in area schools

Provide public programming to increase informal STEM education opportunities for the community.

  • Conduct one or more open house activities each year that include hands-on learning experiences for community members of all ages
  • Host evening presentations and guided discussions on a variety of STEM topics using faculty, students, local business and industry leaders, visiting resource persons, and electronic programming
  • Showcase faculty and student research and class projects though lobby displays and virtual access
  • Issue frequent press releases to area media
  • Create and maintain a vital website that celebrates past achievements, advertises and promotes current activities, and highlights future opportunities for partnership

Academic Goals

Model effective instruction for future teachers.

  • Use the learning studios for STEM content courses required for pre-service teachers
  • Use the learning studios for graduate and undergraduate STEM methods courses
  • Establish policies and procedures for scheduling TTU courses in the facility
  • Ensure courses taking place in the building are purposeful in their use of research-based instructional design

Create a STEM Student Ambassador program.

  • Recruit, select, and train a group of undergraduate students to serve as articulate advocates for STEM careers and topics
  • Regularly schedule these ambassadors as assistants for outreach activities
  • Organize the students into cross-disciplinary teams to enhance their own learning and to increase their effectiveness with STEM clients
  • Model the training of these student ambassadors in consultation with existing effective programs

Facilitate TTU faculty use of the Center.

  • Encourage faculty to reserve STEM Center spaces for selected class activities
  • Encourage STEM departments to schedule regular courses in the Center based on the policies and procedures that clearly value evidence-based and/or research-based instructional design

Research Goals

Foster inter-collegial and multi-campus collaboration for STEM education research.

  • Form, update, and support research teams from College of Education, College of Arts & Science, College of Engineering, College of Agriculture & Human Sciences, and College of Business
  • Effectively administer existing and new grants through the STEM Center
  • Encourage and submit new proposals to National Science Foundation, Department of Education, NASA, Department of Energy, and other government agencies
  • Develop policies and procedures for grant submission and administration
  • Develop working relationships with program officers for state and national agencies, and with foundation program officers
  • Develop research oriented relationships with business, industry, and medical leaders

Communicate the capabilities of the learning studios and interview rooms as research spaces.

  • Establish protocols and schedule usage
  • Develop a budget model for “time and access” in use of Center space as a part of funded research and industry partnerships
  • Conduct on-going dissemination and training on the use of the digital recording equipment
  • Form industry research partnerships for sustainable updates of building furnishings and equipment

Disseminate STEM research and development occurring at the University and in the region.

  • Offer effective outreach models for STEM faculty to use in addressing broader impacts of proposed research;
  • Prepare and/or support the design of exhibits and activities relating STEM topics to key thematic areas such as space, energy, environment, and health;
  • Foster WCTE: Upper Cumberland Public Television partnership in regional video productions of STEM topics and educational outreach;
  • Highlight industry advances and the links to STEM education initiatives in the Upper Cumberland region.