Nurture Your Inner Geek at iMAGINE Upstate STEM Festival

If you or your child gets excited when it comes to learning about drones, battling robots, racecars, 3-D printing, or hovercrafts, then the iMAGINE Upstate STEM Festival is the festival for you. 

The festival is a weeklong celebration of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the Upstate. The program will kick off on Saturday, March 28, with the CU-ICAR 2nd Annual Millennium Drive and will conclude with a downtown festival on Saturday, April 4, 2015. In between, there will be a full slate of demonstrations, luncheons, lectures, and networking events throughout the week. 

Ryan Heafy, Executive Director of iMAGINE Upstate, explained that he hopes that the festival’s interactive exhibits and learning opportunities will spark an “Aha” moment for attendees that will inspire them to pursue STEM-related degrees that will eventually lead to well-paying jobs in the Upstate. 


Photo, right: Ryan Heafy, Executive Director of iMAGINE Upstate, speaks about the upcoming iMAGINE Upstate STEM Festival to attendees of the South Carolina Automotive Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Greenville. 


“There are 1.8 million jobs in South Carolina of which half are STEM-related. In the next 5 to 10 years over 50 percent of our STEM-related workforce will reach retirement age. In South Carolina that’s over 450,000 people that will be retiring,” said Heafy. 

“For our economy to sustain itself and continue to grow, we need to fill those positions. In South Carolina, we only graduate 17,000 students with STEM-related degrees each year, and this number includes two-year degree programs. This means that in 5 to 10 years, we will have a 250,000 person gap to fill the demand for STEM-related jobs. So how do we get ahead of that curve and prepare our students to become part of that workforce so that we continue to grow and prosper as a community?” 

Dr. Nan Dempsey, Director of the Upstate STEM Collaborative, which is working with iMAGINE Upstate to put on the festival, echoed this sentiment. “The festival is going to be hands-on and experiential. Hopefully the kids will get excited about learning math and science and be willing to stay in our area and take some of these job opportunities that are out there that need to be filled,” said Dempsey. 

Heafy pointed out that the festival was designed to appeal to both adults and children: “While most of the hands-on experiential activities are designed for students, there will be things happening all week long that are targeted at the adult community. There will be a lot of social events, networking events, and ways to interface with peers and see what kind of STEM-related things are going on in our area.”

Photo, left: iMAGINE Upstate recently opened its office at 2 N. Main St., Greenville. 


The downtown festival will include exhibits by industry leaders, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations that will line Main Street and show off their latest technology. There will also be shows going on at various stages throughout the day and a food truck rodeo. Festival goers will also be able to win prizes.

“We’re giving out a lot of free stuff. iMAGINE Upstate will be rolling out gamification during the festival through an event app platform which will be launched in mid-March,” said Heafy. “As people move around the festival, they’ll be able to participate in a live game right on their phone. There will be opportunities to win prizes throughout the course of the day.”

To learn more about the iMAGINE Upstate STEM Festival and review a complete schedule of its events, visit iMAGINE Upstate's website. All events are free, family-friendly, and open to the public.


Photos by Greg Beckner. Courtesy of the Upstate Business Journal. Article by Josephine McMullen.