STEM Academy

Academy Overview

Bangor High School eagerly welcomes students to an innovative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Academy which originated in the fall of 2012. Students who choose to enroll in the BHS STEM Academy complete all the traditional Bangor High School graduation requirements while simultaneously completing a challenging and enriching research-based sequence of STEM courses and experiences. Under our model, the experience of sequential curricula informing and enhancing students’ long-term research is captured by the term TAR STEM: Transformative Apprentice Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Designed to dovetail with the school’s existing culture and tradition of excellence and informed by compelling research on the importance of STEM education to our workforce and economy, the BHS STEM Academy is a rigorous academic program with a foundation in apprentice research at the University of Maine during the sophomore, junior and senior years– and with the expectation that students commit 15-20 hours per week to their research in sophomore and junior summers.

BHS STEM is a program option available to all Bangor High School students (tuition and non-tuition) and has its origins in a highly successful student research program that resulted in multiple and successive prize winners in the nation’s most prestigious junior science competitions. BHS STEM seeks to expand this winning model to more students through rigorous curricula and direct research experiences at Maine’s flagship university.

Academy Structure


BHS STEM Academy is a program option within Bangor High School open to all enrolled students. While the name may imply separation, BHS STEM is overseen administratively in the same manner as all of Bangor High School’s excellent instructional programs.

Opting for BHS STEM begins with understanding the purpose of TAR STEM (Transformative Apprentice Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). TAR STEM is designed to purposefully and directly align course content over the four year classroom experience with the students’ progression through apprentice research mentorship during the academic year and the sophomore and junior summers. Current research confirms the power and efficacy of this unique approach and serves as the foundation of the BHS STEM Academy model.

The BHS STEM curriculum consists of three distinct components: 1. Existing science and mathematics courses such as would be found in a traditional STEM-focused high school program; 2. STEM courses introducing and developing methodologies and tools associated with research; and 3. A long term apprentice research experience which occurs over two summers and one and one half academic years. Initially approximately 20 students will enter the program so that over the initial four-year cycle 80 total students will be involved in the program.

STEM Curriculum & Research: 4-Year Overview

  • Year 1: Introduction of physics in the ninth grade exposes students to core scientific concepts and focuses coursework on students’ discovery. The course is scheduled for first period of each school day and includes a lab. Students must be enrolled in an Honors level math course in each year of the Academy and must begin in Honors Geometry or higher in year one.

  • Years 2 & 3: Students take  Technology and Engineering I, which exposes them to rigorous methods of analysis and real-world problem solving using published databases. The Introduction to Research class will lay the groundwork for how engineering and science is performed in areas such as agriculture, medicine, environment, and energy and provide the tools and knowledge necessary to engage in engineering and science methods. The choice of science course is informed by the developing research project with awareness that students must complete at least two AP science courses over four years.Sophomore and Junior Summers: Beginning in the sophomore summer, students engage in the apprentice research mentorship (Apprentice Research I)  for 15 hours per week or more at UMaine, BHS, or at another professional setting as based on the nature of the research project and the work of mentor, a practicing STEM professional. As students enter the junior year, this initial research experience dovetails with additional exposure to crosscutting curricula in math, technology, engineering, physical science and ongoing (weekly) research.

  • Year 4: The apprentice mentorship extends from the junior summer into the senior year, culminating in successful completion of a Capstone Project and a formal presentation of the research. If not met, the two AP science course requirement must be completed during the senior year.

STEM Academy Curriculum


STEM Course Descriptions

Introduction to Research (10th Grade)

The purpose of this class is to engage students in the ideas behind science and engineering practices as outlined in Table 1. and begin to familiarize them with the initial processes behind doing research. The course aims to build a foundation for students allowing them to examine original identified research opportunities in the natural science and engineering programs that hone students’ investigative skills and prepare them for academic competitions. Through this course students will gain experience in laboratory-based research, project planning, experimentation, problem solving, design, modeling, fabrication, testing, evaluation, documentation, and presentation related to engineering and science. Essentially this course is the precursor to the apprenticed research courses I,II,III, and IV. Throughout the course the instructor will expose the students to possible research projects and introduce them to research groups at UMaine. The class will meet daily for 40 minutes.

Technology and Engineering I (10th Grade)

The objective of this course is to teach students the basic technology tools for discovering engineering and science applications. MATLAB Software will be used to provide a programming tool to not only learn the basic principles of modern languages but also to discover a vast number of applications in engineering and sciences without much computer programming skill. This experience will be augmented with MySQL database to teach students the principles of data storage and retrievals. Both MATLAB and MySQL are being used in many academic environments and corporations.

In the first semester of this course, students will learn computer programming via MATLAB. They will learn how to use an interactive environment for data storage, retrieval, manipulation, calculation, analysis, and visualization. Students will learn basics concepts of structured programming, such as subroutines, block structures, if-then-else selections, and for loops. These structures are similar to those used in C, Java and Perl and student would be easily capable of learning other languages in future. Student will also learn how to use MySQL for data storage and retrieval.

In the second semester students will learn how to use hundreds of functions developed in MATLAB for data mining, data analysis, and graphical visualizations. For example, GenABEL ( provides more than hundred functions for studying the human genome, BiodiversityR provides utilities for analysis of biodiversity and ecology systems, Emu provides tools for creating, manipulating, and analyzing speech patterns. Students can use the freely available existing functions or develop their own functions in their apprentice research topics.

Technology and Engineering II (11th Grade)

The objective of this course is to introduce students to the engineering practice through modern applications. The course will include several modules introducing core engineering disciplines such as chemical, civil, electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering. Each module will be taught in an application oriented environment. In the computer engineering module, students will learn to develop simple iPhone and iPad applications. While it will be challenging for a high-school student to comprehensively learn the objective-C programming language (a simplified C++ like computer language), development of simple applications is feasible in the friendly integrated development environment, which offers a style of “what you see is what you get” application interface design. Mechanical and electrical engineering modules will use robotics applications using Lego Mindstorm or VEX robotics. These are robotic kits that can be programmed in an interactive environment such as LabView. After learning MATLAB programming, students would be easily capable of using the LabView programming tool. The civil engineering module will use floating platforms for off-shore wind energy development. The chemical engineering module will deal with advanced biofuels with focus on renewable, cellulosic, drop-in fuels (such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel). Students will work with characterization of forest biomass, conversion of carbohydrates into hydrocarbons, and fractional distillation of hydrocarbons. These modules will be developed by the UM professor in collaboration with the school teachers who will be teaching the modules.

Research Experience Descriptions

Apprentice Research I (Summer of 10th grade)

During apprentice research (AR) I students will spend a total of 6 weeks at UM or another research facility. Students are placed with mentors based on their pre-determined interests developed through consultation with the STEM Coordinator.  They will meet with the research group leader who will describe the ongoing research in terms that are understandable to the student. Further, the group leader will emphasize the ultimate implication of the research in the advancement of science and engineering. During the last 3 weeks the student will interact with the group and choose a particular research topic.  The student initially will begin a literature search relating to the research project so that the student is able to ascertain the state of art relative to the research project. The student will then begin preliminary research under guidance of a research mentor. The actual preliminary research may occur at the high school or UM. At the end of AR I the student would have completed the background associated with the research and would be able to start an in-depth study which would occur in AR II. The best outcomes are achieved when students meet the expectation of committing a minimum of 15 hours per week to the summer apprenticeship.

Apprentice Research II and III (11th grade)

AR II will occur during the junior year and involve about 3-6 hours per week. AR III will occur during the summer of the junior year where students will again spend approximately 6 weeks at the research facility.  The students will focus on the research project to achieve definite results. ARII and ARIII can have substantial overlap depending on the project, student, and a host of other factors including equipment failure, illness, and availability of resources. Based on their progress, students are encouraged to submit papers to junior science competitions such as the New England Junior Science Symposium and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize during the second semester of the junior year.

Apprentice Research (IV) – Senior Capstone Project

In AR IV which is in the senior year, the student will be required to complete their research, write a scientific paper detailing the results of the investigation, and present the results to a committee consisting of the high school students, teachers and UM faculty/graduate student mentor. This should include background information on the topic to be studied, the design and conduct of the investigation including a discussion of procedures and apparatus, experimental results, analysis of the results including discussion of experimental errors and uncertainties, conclusions drawn from the results, and questions for further study. With the advice of student’s mentor, results from the student research project may be submitted for journal publication and/or conference presentation. In addition students are encouraged to submit their papers to a national high school competition such as the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Intel Science Talent Search, Siemens Competition, National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, and other related competitions.

Research Areas

Building on the existing program, 14 UM faculty from the College of Engineering and College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture have developed 22 research areas in engineering and the sciences. The faculty research leaders and their research areas have been listed in Table 2. The specific research topic for the HS student will come from one of the listed research areas, or new areas that open up as the program develops. All of the faculty mentors listed in Table 2 have active research programs and have previously involved high school students in their research projects through federally and state sponsored grants. They would be able to support the proposed ARM STEM beyond the terms of this project. Furthermore, a number of research organizations and industries, including The Jackson Laboratory, IDEXX, and Fairchild Semiconductor have indicated their interest in supporting this initiative now and in future during the replication of this model in other high schools in Maine.