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SAMSAT Academy - Creating Opportunity

While the pandemic presented many challenges, it also created many opportunities. As education turned virtual, so did our programs. As a result, our education team developed the SAMSAT Academy badging program as a solution to keep students engaged, while rewarding their efforts in a meaningful way.

SAMSAT is proud to have launched such an engaging program that provides students opportunities to discover various STEM career pathways, interact with industry professionals and take a deeper dive into subjects that complement formal school-day content. This spring 221 students attended badging programs in various topics ranging from cybersecurity and aerospace to videogame design and paleontology.

So why digital badging?

Badging: A Brief History

In 2007, Eva Baker, the President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), gave a presentation about the need to develop merit-badge-like "Qualifications" that certify accomplishments, not through standardized tests, but as "an integrated experience with performance requirements." Such a system would apply to learning both in and out of school and support youth to develop and pursue passionate interests. Ultimately, Baker believed badging focuses attention on gaining usable and compelling skills.

In September 2011, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, announced the launch of the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition. Duncan believed badging could help engage students in learning, could create opportunities to acquire, demonstrate and document their skills. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation, with additional support from the Gates Foundation, HASTAC administers the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, which awarded funds to thirty organizations in March 2012 to implement badging programs.

In 2017, the MacArthur Foundation launched Cities of Learning, a national effort to pilot these experiments at scale in cities across the country and test a new approach to credentialing learning and “digital badging.” Additionally, MacArthur funded the launch of a new organization, LRNG, as the final phase of the initiative, to scale Connected Learning, digital badges, and other promising innovations seeded through the initiative.

SAMSAT Academy: An Opportunity to Fuel Futures SAMSAT is applying these ideals through STEM-focused badging programs. These programs allow SAMSAT to inspire what’s next for the future of San Antonio by providing valuable learning opportunities, access to industry leaders and exposure to STEM career pathways to students in our community. Access to these opportunities show youth that exciting careers in STEM are available right here at home, and a successful financial future is a possibility. Digital badging gives SAMSAT a way to help students pursue STEM education and careers in a more compelling and systematic way. For students, the badges are reaffirming, a clear indicator of their accomplishment, and a clear way to build their own portfolio. For teachers and schools, badges and course content are a force multiplier building on the content they deliver to students. For SAMSAT, we get a chance to measure our progress, help students down career pathways, and communicate what we do to the people we serve,” said SAMSAT Chief Learning Officer, Cliff Zintgraff, Ph.D. Want to learn more about how SAMSAT Academy can inspire your students? Contact us at

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