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Catalyst is a high school program designed to create STEM opportunities for students with disabilities. Students learn STEM content and skills through hands-on labs and research, participate in STEM field trips, mentoring opportunities, and paid internships, improve workforce readiness and soft skills, and explore STEM educational pathways and careers. Catalyst also provides students job exploration counseling, workplace readiness training, work-based learning experiences, counseling on postsecondary options, and development in self-advocacy.

The recruitment period for Summer 2022 and School Year, 2022-2023 has closed. Catalyst recruitment will begin in January 2023 for Summer 2023 and school Year 2023-2024.

Program Details

Catalyst was founded five years ago and is located at The Science House on NC State’s Centennial Campus. Students attend free weeklong institutes in the summer and Saturday Sessions throughout the school year. 

Students can participate if they are rising 9-12 high school students with any disability. Students can be in Regular Education Classes (AP, honors, regular level) or in the OCS Program. Catalyst is designed specifically for students interested in STEM and who want to pursue a STEM Career following high school.

Catalyst is funded by North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation. Catalyst also has many community partners including NC State, Wake Tech, NC Museum of Natural Sciences,  Biogen, Duke Energy, IBM, Fidelity, SAS, EPA, NASA, and Bank of America. This program would not exist without the generosity of our funder and partners.

If you are interested in this program, please contact Joann Blumenfeld, Program Director, at or by phone at (919) 633-3120.

Catalyst in the News

Joann Blumenfeld, Catalyst Director, Named One of Time’s Innovative Teacher of the Year 2022

NC First Lady, NC Commerce Secretary Visit The Science House (Catalyst)

Energizing opportunities for students with disabilities in STEM

Learners, Leaders

Education Matters with Joann and Governor Cooper

Nice Video About Catalyst

Catalyst InvenTeam brings high-level STEM to students with disabilities


Catalyst Awards and Accomplishments

  • Received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant For Connecting Students with Autism to Geographic Information Science & Technology, 2021
  • Program of Excellence Award, 2021, International Technology and Engineering Educators Association.
  • Winners of National 2017 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Competition. The students invented a mat that screens for lameness in cows and an App that notifies farmers. This device costs less than $1,000, and the current one on the market is over $100,000. They also won the technical award and were the only in the country with all students with disabilities. All participants presented at MIT and received a $10,000 grant to build their invention, which we hope to patent.
  • Winners of National Energy Education Development Project: Special Project Award, 2020
  • Invited to the US Patent Office, June 2018 for a special program.
  • All graduating Catalyst Seniors have gone on to STEM Educational Pathways in College.

Connecting Students with Autism to Geographic Information Systems and Technology Program (CSA – GIST)