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Nurturing a 21st century STEM workforce to create a more equitable talent pipeline

FirstHand students collaborating on a STEM project
FirstHand students collaborating on a STEM project

About FirstHand

FirstHand offers free year-round, supplemental STEM learning for middle and high school students and is designed to provide skills-based career exposure. Our FirstHand Lab connects students from surrounding neighborhoods to the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in Philadelphia. Our industry-informed curricula provides real-world, hands-on experience in an effort to open doors for the minds of tomorrow.

Headshot of Maya Heiland

Maya Heiland

Director of STEM Education Initiatives

Who is this program for?

  • Male instructor wearing business attire instructs two teenage girls with their STEM project
  • FirstHand students collaborating on a STEM project
    FirstHand students collaborating on a STEM project

A look inside the FirstHand Lab

  • STEM in action

    City School students brainstorming their final projects
  • STEM in action

    Paul Robeson High School students prepare their projects before pitching to an audience made up of professionals from CHOP and the Science Center.
  • Making the pitch

    8th graders from Chester A Arthur Elementary present their final projects to the community.
  • In the lab

    Middle school students busy at work in the FirstHand lab.

Program Benefits

Career Exposure

High school students work directly with professional mentors in real-world, career simulations. Middle school students begin to understand the STEM career opportunities in their own neighborhood by visiting STEM labs and workspaces

Exposure to STEM

We create an early interest in the STEM disciplines and supplement the classroom experiences with hands-on, project-based lessons with real world applications.


You can’t be what you can’t see. That’s why we engage STEM professionals to demonstrate what a variety of STEM careers look like and provide guidance to students.

Learn about mentorship opportunities

Hands-on Learning

Our lab-based programming incorporates project-based learning and industry-relevant curricula.

View Curriculum

Virtual Learning

The learning doesn’t stop just because we can’t be in the lab, whether it’s delivering “at-home” STEM kits, providing supplemental support to teachers conducting virtual classes, or with remote project-based curricula like FirstHand Summer Ventures, Move Into Physics or STEM in the Real World.

I’m most excited about how I’m gonna actually make something of my own from scratch and look forward to seeing how it turns out. I’ve been working on it every day!

Tiara Milas-Stark, 10th grader at Paul Robeson High School

FirstHand Impact

As of May 1, 2015
Students Served Since 2014
Youth Impact Hours Since 2014
STEM Mentors Involved Since 2014
Companies Engaged in Mentoring Since 2014
School Partners Since 2014

Program FAQs

Become a Mentor

Inspire the next generation of STEM professionals by serving as a mentor to our FirstHand students. Work with middle and high school students from under-represented communities in Philadelphia, for hands-on, project-based learning in our dedicated FirstHand Lab or your space. Our mentors are scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, and engineers, but we welcome mentors with all types of backgrounds and skill sets.

Contact Us
A female graphic designer instructs a teenage boy and girl with their designs on their laptops