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First Lady Kristin Cooper Meets Catalyst Participants


A national award winning high school program designed to create STEM opportunities for students with disabilities.

The primary goal of the Catalyst program is to provide students with the skills, knowledge and experiences they need to help build a more diverse, inclusive and innovative STEM workforce of the future. 

Catalyst provides students with a unique opportunity to engage with STEM education through free weeklong institutes in the summer and Saturday sessions throughout the school year. 

Catalyst prepares students for a future in STEM through: 

  • STEM content and skills through hands-on labs, engineering design, research, computer programming, and more. 
  • STEM field trips
  • Workforce and college readiness skills
  • Explore STEM careers and educational pathways
  • Paid internships to learn workforce readiness and professional skills
  • Overnight field trips to see first hand cutting edge research, labs, and other experiences.
  • Instruction by professors, graduate students and STEM professionals
  • Advocacy

Alumni of Catalyst are attending colleges including Wake Tech, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Asheville, NC State University, UNC Pembroke, Eastern Carolina University, Appalachian State University, Northwestern, and Peace College. They are majoring in STEM programs such as engineering, physics, molecular biology, chemistry, mathematics, electrician, nursing.

Upcoming Events

Please come to our FREE Reach for the Stars! Be a Star! STEM and resource fair for middle and high School Students with disabilities. Students will learn how to use their many abilities and talents to be part of a diverse, inclusive, and innovative STEM workforce.

The STEM resource fair will include:
◾Hands on STEM activities
◾STEM educational and career pathways
◾STEM content, skills and research
◾STEM professionals with disabilities and community resources.

This event will be on Saturday, April 22nd, from 9 AM-12 PM at McKimmon Conference Center, NC State University, 1101 Gorman Street, Raleigh, NC.

If you have any questions, please contact, Joann Blumenfeld, Catalyst Director at: 919-633-3120 or by email at

You can attend without registering but we ask you to register to help with our planning.

Program Details

Catalyst has been successfully engaging students with disabilities in STEM for the past six years. Our program is a part of The Science House at NC State located on NC State’s Centennial Campus. Students are eligible to participate if they are rising 9-12th grade 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  who want to pursue a STEM career following high school.

Catalyst is funded by North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation and free for qualified participants. Catalyst has many community partners including NC State, Wake Technical Community College, NC Museum of Natural Sciences,  ABB, Burroughs Wellcome Foundation, Red Hat, Eastman Fund, Kenan Institute, NC Space Grant,  IBM, Fidelity, Junior Achievement, EPA and NASA. Catalyst 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

Creating STEM Opporunties: Catalyst Program in Photos

Joann Blumenfeld, Catalyst Director, received 2022 Friday Medal from the Friday Institute

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.
  • Letter of Commendation from President Obama

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