World Smarts STEM Challenge

World Smarts STEM Challenge


Today’s youth need skills in STEM, innovation, and collaboration across cultures. The World Smarts STEM Challenge (WSSC) is a virtual exchange program that supports STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in the United States and Ghana. 8th-12th grade students in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia and secondary school students from across Ghana come together virtually to solve global issues in their communities with STEM solutions

The  program  improves STEM skills, strengthens cross-cultural communication, and develops global competence while enhancing students’ enthusiasm and commitment to STEM learning and careers. IREX will partner with North Carolina State University to research how global competence and virtual exchange can expand access to STEM education.


  • Increase student interest and engagement in STEM and information communication technology careers over time.  
  • Increase digital literacy, cross-cultural communication, and global competence in students.
  • Build enduring connections between students  and teachers in the U.S. and Ghana. 
  • Prepare students for a dynamic and changing workforce through virtual project-based learning.
  • Cultivate teachers’ skills in facilitating global citizenship and innovation in the classroom.

My highlight of the World Smarts STEM Challenge was the virtual meetings with our Ghana team. I received the opportunity to learn from peers across the world and I gained better teamwork skills. - Jala, WSSC 2022 Participant  

Project Activities

  • Virtual Mentor Training: Selected mentors attend a virtual training session where they will learn about the 10-week challenge modules and how to implement them.  

  • 10-Week Binational Virtual STEM Challenge: WSSC teams develop a STEM solution to a global challenge from the Sustainable Development Goals. 

  • Virtual Global STEM Exhibit: WSSC teams share their STEM prototypes through a video pitch and concept paper, which are displayed in a virtual exhibit leading up to the Virtual Global Expo. The exhibit is open to the public.  

  • Virtual Global STEM Expo: To conclude the challenge, the WSSC teams pitch their STEM prototypes live to a panel of industry professionals and special guests. Explore the students’ innovative solutions.

  • World Smarts STEM Workshop for Educators: IREX will share lessons learned from two years of programming and practical resources to enable adaptation of the virtual exchange program with K-12 educators in the Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland Metro Area. Learn more and apply for the workshop.

  • Community engagement: WSSC teams share lessons learned about STEM education and virtual exchange to deepen program impact.  

Participating Schools

The World Smarts STEM Challenge includes 8-12th grade and secondary school students in the Washington, D.C. metro area and across Ghana. Mentors and teachers can apply to lead a World Smarts STEM Challenge team.




logoThe World Smarts STEM Challenge is funded by the National Science Foundation and is part of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers applied research program. WSSC is implemented by IREX with partnership from North Carolina State University and Catalyst Consulting Group.