The Junior Academy: Unlocking Student Innovation through Virtual Collaboration

Your Name and Title:

Kaari Casey, Junior Academy Program Manager

School or Organization Name:

The New York Academy of Sciences

Co-Presenter Name(s):


Area of the World from Which You Will Present:

New York City, USA

Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience(s):

Middle & High School Teachers and Students

Short Session Description (one line):

The Junior Academy: Unlocking Student Innovation through Virtual Collaboration

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that we will need 2.4 million new scientists and engineers by 2020 as we shift from a labor-intensive to a knowledge economy. Science- and technology-driven companies are experiencing human capital supply shortages as they are unable to find and retain the talent they need to accelerate innovation and maintain competitiveness. Simultaneously, leading and emerging economies of the world are suffering from a skills shortage that is creating global inefficiencies and an inability to accelerate the innovation necessary to confront urgent global problems such as climate change, poverty reduction, disease, and sustainability.

In 2015, the The New York Academy of Sciences launched The Junior Academy, a virtual program for the world’s brightest and most STEM-motivated students, to address this issue. This passionate community of problem solvers is made up of talented students, STEM experts, and companies around the world dedicated to developing 21st-century skills and designing innovative solutions to global challenges. To date, The Junior Academy has drawn the attention of more than 18,000 STEM students from over 110 countries to apply and has enrolled more than 1,900 of the most highly qualified candidates.

In this program, students and mentors connect with one another via the Academy’s proprietary website, Launchpad. Launchpad is a digital learning platform that engages a global audience in tackling global issues. Students and mentors create profiles and form international teams that work together on challenges sponsored by industry leading companies. These teams work to refine their scientific knowledge and enhance their 21st-century skills in preparation for future careers in STEM.

The Junior Academy employs a unique, challenge-based approach to STEM education that is tied to the Academy’s STEM Education Framework.  This approach links students to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, guiding them through a collaborative four-phase design process that leads to the development of interdisciplinary science and technology-based solutions. Students connect with like-minded peers and inspirational mentors from around the world, allowing them to build a culturally diverse network of support.

The purpose of this presentation is to showcase the power of virtual collaboration in connecting students with real-world issues to create meaningful learning experiences. We aim to inspire educators to incorporate similar models and approaches in their own instruction as we build a global community of young leaders in STEM.


Participants will explore ways to connect the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to challenge-based instruction in order to create meaningful learning experiences.

Participants will discuss how mentorship can enhance student outcomes, increase retention in the STEM pipeline, and assist students in the development of 21st-century skills.

Participants will learn how their students can leverage Launchpad to broaden their understanding of global issues and enhance learning through international collaboration.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:

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