TechPoint Foundation For Youth Names STEM Connection 2020 Bridge Builder Award And Kicks Off Annual Fundraising Drive

(INDIANAPOLIS) – The STEM Connection and its founder, Vera Vander Kooy will receive the TechPoint Foundation for Youth (TPF4Y) Bridge Builder Award during TechPoint’s 21st annual Mira Awards gala honoring the best of tech in Indiana. Also at the virtual gala, the Foundation will remark on the organization’s activities and cap off its annual fundraising drive. 

Vera Vander Kooy
The STEM Connection
Founder and Executive Director

The Bridge Builder Award recognizes visionary leaders who are helping underserved student populations in Indiana gain access to experiential learning opportunities that inspire the pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. 

TPF4Y is supported by several large donors but also relies on the annual Mira drive to support its programming. Those wanting to donate can text “STEM” to 55433 or visit

Ms. Vander Kooy founded the STEM Connection in 2014, with the mission of encouraging diversity, inclusion, and equity in STEM. In its first year, the program served about 100 participants. In the past five years, 17,500 participants have taken part in offerings ranging from virtual STEM Quick Wins, day camps, field trips, professional development opportunities, family events, STEM Future Leaders, and community engagements. 

One of the most popular events is a “Girls Only” camp where students work together on science experiments, discovering nature in the creek, prairie and woods, and presenting their projects to parents and siblings at the end of the week. These programs are kept accessible to all children through reduced rates and financial aid.

“We’ve been blessed to have met and nurtured thousands of bright, young people,” said Ms. Vander Kooy. “They’ve opened our eyes, charmed us and impressed us with their intelligence and their dreams. They are the ones who are truly building bridges for a brighter tomorrow for themselves, and for everyone around them.”

The STEM Future Leader program aims to increase STEM literacy and use of STEM practices in adolescents by providing leadership opportunities to cultivate interest in STEM careers, while also eliminating the stereotypes associated with STEM. Currently, 25 middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students are part of the mentoring program that began in 2016.

The STEM Connection was one of about 10 nominations for the 2020 Bridge Builder Award. 

“It’s always a difficult choice for this award because there are so many wonderful programs out there addressing STEM accessibility, but Vera and The STEM Connection stood out as tireless advocates for quality, equitable STEM education for all students,” said Steve Ehrlich, the Foundation’s  interim president and CEO. “Their range of programming is impressive, but they don’t stop there. They’re always working to inform educators on best practices in STEM education, which increases their positive effect throughout the state.” 

About The STEM Connection

More than 5,000 children and adults are served yearly through The STEM Connection programming which includes virtual STEM Quick Wins, year round field trips, clubs, day camps, professional development and traveling STEM experiences. The organization is supported by foundations including The Indianapolis Community Foundation, Greater Historic Traders Point, Lilly Foundation, Lilly Endowment Inc., Clif Bar Family Foundation, 80/20 Foundation Trust and The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Learn more here:

About TechPoint Foundation for Youth

TechPoint Foundation for Youth is the leader in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education efforts for the state of Indiana, and has been inspiring students through STEM programming since 2001. The Foundation ensures Indiana’s underserved, K-12 students have access to experiential learning opportunities that increase STEM knowledge and inspire STEM career exploration. Learn more here: