STEM Scale-Up Program: Ramps & Pathways partners with industrial tech students

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – University of Northern Iowa industrial technology students, in collaboration with the Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education, are helping children across the state "scale up" their skills as part of Ramps & Pathways by creating the materials needed for more than 250 pre-made kits.

Ramps & Pathways is an integrative STEM activity that fosters children's understanding of force and motion and challenges spatial thinking as they design and engineer ramps and pathway systems to move objects from one point to another. Teachers apply for a grant, and when chosen by the STEM Advisory Committee in each STEM Hub, they receive a classroom set of unit blocks, a 30-piece set of track for constructing ramp systems, objects to roll on the track, and a teacher guide and STEM resource book.

Ramps and Pathways

Through their own research, the Regents' Center has developed materials that support young children in doing STEM investigations, posing their own and eventually creating outside engineering and design challenges. These materials are not readily available to teachers. For this project, the Regents' Center formed a partnership with UNI’s Department of Industrial Technology (DIT). They were able to bring prototypes of educational materials to the DIT and have them use these prototypes to create high-quality materials that will serve young STEM investigators and their teachers well. The benefit to the DIT was an authentic experience for their undergraduate and graduate students to research sources for raw materials, methods of production and design, and carry out production.

The center has been successful on a small scale and was excited for this opportunity to bring this partnership to a large scale with an added challenge of following public university guidelines and procedures. To date, DIT has produced 7,500 pieces of track (ramps) and 62,0000 blocks. Each kit requires approximately 35-40 hours to complete. When complete, the DIT students and staff deliver the kits to locations across Iowa, including urban and rural classrooms.

"I think by partnering with industrial tech students, we bridged an understanding of what we do at the Regents' Center and also opened doors for other community collaboration," said Allison Barness, instructor of teaching at UNI. "We are making something with a purpose."

For more information about Ramps & Pathways, contact Barness at 319-273-2381 or, or visit For more information about the Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education, visit


Allison J. Barness, instructor, College of Education, 319-273-2381,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-2761,