Iowa STEM Teacher Externs to bring workplace to classroom this fall

Eric Grabe at Pella Corporation
Eric Grabe, an Iowa STEM Teacher Extern at Pella Corporation, used his physics and programming teaching experience to test the strength of Pella windows this summer.

“This test consists of cycling a damaged window through a series of positive and negative pressures that replicate the conditions of a hurricane moving in and out of the area,” said Eric Grabe, physics and computer teacher at Newton Senior High School, working this summer at Pella Corporation in Pella. “The program I wrote needed to ensure that the windows experienced the correct pressures, number of cycles and for the prescribed amounts of time.”                                                                                                                                                                                       

Although Iowa will never see a hurricane, the experience Grabe will take back to the classroom will tie not only his physics concepts to the formulas in testing windows, but will also show students that work done in Iowa impacts people beyond the state’s border.

Eric and nearly 60 other teachers throughout Iowa took the teaching hat off to put on a lab coat, strap on a hard hat and step into some chest waders to see first-hand how their subjects come to life in Iowa’s workplaces this summer.

It’s an annual opportunity for both teachers and workplaces known as the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program, helping teachers of STEM subjects to inspire their students with classroom content that connects to the jobs of Iowa. In return, Workplace Hosts find valuable input from their outsider perspectives and use the expertise to accomplish new tasks important to their daily operations.

“This is a great opportunity for Iowa educators and industry to mutually benefit from learning,” said Dan Parrish, engineering team leader at Pella Corporation. “We have a reasonable amount of time to execute several projects and both learn in the process. These skill sets are valuable to industry, and hopefully we will see more kids take an interest in this type of work in the future.”

Additional Teacher Extern adventures as well as program information may be accessed at or search the hashtag #TeacherExtern on Twitter or Facebook.

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