3M Does Something About Science

November 11, 2015
3M’s success is built on science. As a relatively new 3Mer, I appreciate that we are a collection of curious minds, and also a community of caring people. 3Mers care about cultivating the next generation of innovative thinkers and doers. With our robust history of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs globally, we desired to “pilot” a program that provided relevancy and reach to underserved communities. When we thought of underserved, our thinking reflected a number of perspectives. Many students are underserved, especially girls, because they are not comfortable with the study of science as traditionally taught. Additionally, the technology has developed to increased accessibility, especially with the use of cellphones. Finally, we wanted to leverage the individual initiative for the collective community through schools.
Although we had desire, we needed data. Data informs our company investments as well as community investments. Research shows that girls are three times less likely than boys to aspire to be scientists or engineers. When girls are introduced to real-life scientists, 76% express interest in science and engineering. 3M’s Visiting Wizards program reflects this premise. Through this program, 3M scientists visit local classrooms to share over 29 exciting introductions to science. Topics include Crime Labs, Thermodynamics, Toys in Space, Papermaking, Microbiology, and Cryogenics. The program aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards ensuring that students are advancing their knowledge of STEM, while having fun conversations and access to a real-life scientist. The program is in its 30th year and is completely managed by volunteers. Building strength upon strength, 3M collaborated with innovative and inspirational partner DoSomething.org to create Science Sleuth, powered by 3M.
3M uses real science skills to solve a high school mystery. What is the mystery? Someone stole the school mascot a week before the big rivalry football game. At each level, the students-turned-detectives must make the right decisions, employ the correct scientific methods, and earn clues. Earning enough clues can result in catching the thief and finding the missing mascot. Gamers can also learn while they earn. Players learn about 3M’s women scientists,who are eager to share their passion for STEM and encourage others. To increase access to STEM materials in classrooms, users who completed the game with three friends unlocked a real $10 donation from 3Mgives to classrooms in need through DonorsChoose. Science Sleuth connected science to 92,986 young people, 69% female and 72% from high-need communities. Through our unique model with DonorsChoose, 3Mgives funded 4,199 creative projects nationally, supporting 190,292 students across 1,402 cities. The program achieved more than 189,507,452 media impressions, exceeding expectations. Takeaways from Science Sleuth were that 97% of participants felt the game made science engaging, while 99% felt the game portrayed science as fun or interesting. Moreover, 61% of participants think discrimination exists in science or technology fields.
Science Sleuth is a successful tool for engaging students and schools in STEM. This partnership provides role models, access to real-world advice, and a platform to address the opportunity gap in classrooms by funding innovative projects—all through technology. At 3M, we share for success! 
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Co-Designing the Future: The Role of the Private Sector Partnering in Education].