Iowa 4-H InventSTEM Challenge Showcases Youth Innovation at the Iowa State Fair

August 24, 2021, 9:27 am | Valyn Bodensteiner, Sara Nelson

AMES, Iowa – This year 20 youth from across Iowa showcased their innovative ideas during InventSTEM Aug. 15 at the Iowa State Fair. This Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development program encourages youth to engage in the innovation process to solve real-world problems.

InventSTEM participants at 2021 Iowa State Fair.The InventSTEM program uses a learning framework that encourages youth to take part in a variety of STEM learning opportunities. “This year, at the Iowa State Fair, youth participated in a fun innovation game that included the use of solar power,” said Sara Nelson, Iowa 4-H STEM specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “It was wonderful to see youth innovate around a problem that featured a user, need and constraint.”

The top youth teams in grades 4-12 across the state were awarded prizes and showcased their ideas at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.

"The event taught me about problem solving and working with limited resources and time," said Kate Nelson from Story County. Her group shared that they enjoyed bouncing ideas off each other and participating in this STEM event.

The InventSTEM program, developed in partnership with Alliant Energy, has provided an opportunity to meet the rising demand for future professionals in science, technology, engineering and math, helping young people improve their skills as they explore the importance of STEM in everyday life.

“Through our partnership, we are building stronger communities by engaging students across Iowa to foster a STEM mindset and enhance their skills for the future,” said Julie Bauer, community affairs manager for Alliant Energy.

“The challenges are an important part of the learning process. They help connect STEM learning to real-life issues and showcase the value of hands-on, minds-on experiences,” Sara Nelson said.

For more information on Iowa 4-H STEM programming, contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office or visit the InventSTEM website,

Shareable photo: InventSTEM participants
Caption: InventSTEM participants from across Iowa engaged in the innovation process to solve real-world problems on Aug. 15 at the Iowa State Fair.

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