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Science Pioneers

“The mission of Science Pioneers is to create innovative and supportive education activities that will encourage the youth of Kansas City to understand and use science and critical thinking in their careers and everyday lives.”

Science Pioneers Historical Timeline

  • 1952 – 1st Greater Kansas City (GKC) Science Fair
  • 1957 – 1st GKC Science and Engineering Fair produced by Science Pioneers
  • 1961 – Science Pioneers hosts National Science Fair, later named International Science and Engineering Fair
  • 1961 – Wellington Lecture Series for High School students (named after one SciPi founder from KC Star)
  • 1961 – Junior Seminar program held every other Saturday, now Saturday Stem Seminars
  • 1963 – 1st time a KC entrant took 1st place at National Science Fair – Vernice Marie Murray, Lincoln High School
  • 1964 – 1st Summer Science Camp for student research
  • 1969 – 1st list of professional science consultants (mentors) interested in helping with student projects/research
  • 1980 – 1st Meet The Stem Mentor, created by Al Frisby
  • 1982 – KC Fair changed to GKC Science & Engineering Fair
  • 1990 – SciPi first offers Expanding Your Horizons for girls grades 6-8
  • 1995 – ScienceWise/ScienceWhys started in collaboration with Marion Merrell Dow to do teacher Professional Development
  • 1996 – 1st SciPi website launched
  • 2005 – 1st Teacher Resource Day
  • 2010 – 1st ScienceWise online courses offered
  • 2015 – 1st computer summer camp for students


The 1950’s

  • 1956-1957—Science Pioneers’ first program beyond the fair was a series of five lectures in connection with the International Geophysical Year.
  • 1957—The organization offered math, science and engineering-related speakers, films and motion pictures available to schools, PTA’s civic groups, science clubs and church groups.
  • 1957—The Board established a scholarship program for seniors.
  • 1958—A Board committee researched and inaugurated a Summer Employment Program for high school students.  They placed seven students the first year (The program lasted until 1969 when it was cut back to several days.)
  • 1959—Science Pioneers sponsored a series of ten lectures for elementary teachers on the earth sciences, in conjunction with Linda Hall Library and Continuing Education Division of the University of Missouri at Kansas City
  • 1959—A Science Club Program, co-sponsored with the University of Kansas City and the recreation division of Kansas City, offered new challenges for high school students.

The 1960’s

  • 1961—Science Pioneers hosted the National Science Fair at Municipal Auditorium May 10-12.  Board members raised $25,000 and spend $22,000 to handle local expenses.
  • 1961—The Wellington Lecture Series was inaugurated in honor of a Science Pioneers founder C. G. (Pete) Wellington. Through 1992, this annual lecture brought a well-known science and technology speaker to Kansas City to present scientific advancements to an audience of outstanding high school students.
  • 1961—The Junior Seminar program, held every other Saturday, was begun in conjunction with the Kansas Junior Academy of Science. It continues up to the present to offer 10 seminars annually as Science Pioneers’ Saturday Science Seminar, and enjoys the long-term sponsorship of the R. A. Long Foundation.
  • 1962—Science Pioneers continued to offer courses for elementary teachers at the University of Kansas City.
  • 1962—Science Pioneers began the Kansas Junior Academy of Science with co-sponsorship of the Academy of Kansas and funding from the National Science Foundation.
  • 1964—People to People initiated an exchange of scientific papers between Kansas City youth and those in foreign countries as a result of the Science Pioneers’ distribution of printed material in foreign countries.
  • 1964—Summer science camp, offered for students interested in research, occurred for first time.  The camp operated by the Parks and Recreation Department was co-sponsored by Science Pioneers and the Burroughs Audubon Society. The camp continued full strength through 1976 and at a reduced level until 1988.
  • 1964—The Holiday Lecture Series was a one-time program co-sponsored by Linda Hall Library and Science Pioneers.
  • 1966—The Spring Science Conference (later called Science Seminar Camp) began as a conclusion to the seminar program and remained until 1973.
  • 1969—Science Pioneers compiled its first list of professional consultants to assist students with science fair projects.  This list continues today as the Mentor Directory. These professionals may also volunteer to do classroom presentations and assist with other research projects.

The 1970’s

  • 1971—Science Pioneers again hosted the International Science and Engineering Fair, held May 10-15. This fair was the first to include engineering and to add the category of behavioral and social sciences.
  •  1971—The Junior Academy of Science for Kansas and for Missouri, then without National Science Foundation funding, continued through Science Pioneers.
  • 1973—Life Science Convocation began a long-term partnership between Science Pioneers and the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.  Dr Jonas Salk, who helped discover the polio vaccine, presented the first lecture. The series lasted through 1991.
  • 1974—Science Pioneers inaugurated a series of workshops on experimental science in order to motivate elementary teachers to encourage student participation in the science fair.
  • 1978—Jacob L. and Ella C. Loose Foundation funded the establishment of innovative programs, including a college course for elementary science teachers, a science symposium and workshop for secondary school teachers, a program aimed at gifted children in inner-city schools, and summer science fellowships for high school students.

The 1980’s

  • 1987 & 1988—Invent Kansas City workshop, an outgrowth of Invent America for teachers, featured student inventors with patents pending and other adult inventors as speakers.
  • 1987—The Science Olympiad, co-sponsored by Science Pioneers, began this year as an academic contest.  Today it is sponsored by the Science Olympiad Board.
  • 1989—The Fellowship Program for Distinguished Teachers began and ran through 1991 with Science Pioneers recruiting teachers for summer employment in business and industry.  Silicon Prairie Technology Association secured the commitment of business.  Eleven teachers participated in 1989, 26 in 1990 and 22 in 1991.
  • 1989—Centers for the Scientifically Curious began as a three-year program for 3rd and 4th grade students, who met to do hands-on science for four hours on five Saturdays. It was taught by elementary education majors.

The 1990’s

  • 1990—Meet the Mentor Day, first co-sponsored with the Kansas Junior Academy of Science, was the brain-child of then Shawnee Mission Northwest teacher Al Frisby. Meet the Science Mentor Day continues to provide students an opportunity to consult with professional scientists and engineers about the experimental design of their science research projects.
  • 1990—A unique conference designed to introduce young women to science and math careers, Expanding Your Horizons has inspired 6th-8th girls every year since, except 2003, when the Sally Ride Festival was substituted for the program.
  • 1990—Science Pioneers offered two programs to prepare teachers to sponsor their students’ science fair projects.  “Elementary Science Projects Workshops” used experienced teachers to share their techniques for producing successful science projects.  “Teaching Research Skills to Secondary Science Students” offered both skills and graduate credit from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
  • 1991—Worlds of Fun invited Science Pioneers to its “School Days,” where students experienced many hands-on, science-related activities.
  • During the 1991-92 school year, Science Pioneers launched “Project NXS,” in cooperation with Marion Merrill Dowell. The program provided equipment from local businesses to school districts in the area.   
  • 1993—Science Pioneers hosted the Junior Solar Sprint Regional, a competition where students used science, engineering and teamwork to race model solar cars.  There were six annual competitions, the last in 1998.
  • 1995-1996—ScienceWise/ScienceWhys, another collaboration with Marion Merrill Dow, became Science Pioneers’ first ongoing professional development program for teachers.
  • 1996—The ScienceWise Plus Teacher Cadre created a corps of master teachers, who were trained that summer to assist other teachers in the processes of science and the how’s of completing science projects.
  • 1996—The launch of the first website www.spioneers occurred in October.
  • 1999—Science Pioneers was one of six local sites to offer “Camp Invention,” a national program of the National Inventions Hall of Fame.  The five-day camp offered 2nd through 6th graders opportunities to create their own inventions.

The 2000’s

  • 2003—Science Pioneers joined with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to host the “Sally Ride Science Festival” for girls in 5th through 9th grades. 
  • 2004—“Expanding Your Horizons” returned and continues today as a Science Pioneers’ program whose purpose is to attract 6th to 8th grade girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • 2004—“The Reverse Science Fair,” a new program held in conjunction with “Meet the Science Mentor Day”  showcases displays of current research and product development by scientific corporations and universities in the Kansas City area. This program continues.
  • 2005—“ScienceWise Teacher Resource Day” first offered teachers a share-a-thon of lesson demonstrations by master teachers and an exposition of  community resources for the science classroom offered through area organizations, attractions and universities.
  • 2005—The first Science, Engineering, and Information Technology Career Day offered opportunities for students in grades 8 to 12 to visit one-on-one with professionals from over 40 different science-related careers.
  • 2005—ScienceWise Short Courses were revamped to provide four-hour opportunities to teachers to experience standards-based lessons to replicate in their classrooms.  For three courses, teachers were able to enroll for credit at either the University of Missouri-Kansas City or Baker University.
  • 2015—ecosySTEM KC initiative is launched with a grant for technical assistance from the STEM Funder’s Network. STEM Learning Ecosystems provide the architecture for cross-sector learning, offering all young people access to STEM-rich learning environments so they can develop important skills and engagement in science, technology, engineering and math throughout preK-16, or Cradle to Career. Our grant specifies our initial focus is on the KCKS and KCMO Public School districts.
  • 2016—Merger of Science Pioneers into Union Station’s Science City announced on June 28th.  Effective July 1, 2016, the two organizations blend complementary science-based events, activities and programs into a unique powerhouse with a mission to create a STEM-strong community.

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