In the words of their press release, "The next big idea to shape the future of science, technology, engineering and math research in the United States could be hatched at Western Michigan University."

Western Michigan University is the only Michigan school to be named a finalist in the National Science Foundation's "2026 Idea Machine" Competition. This comes from the three entries from WMU faculty and staff to have been selected as contenders for the grand prize. Thirty-two entries were selected from a pool of more than 800 hopefuls from across the country. WMU's competition is entries from researchers at prestigious universities like Harvard, Columbia and Duke. WMU also has the most finalists of any single university, with the three ideas chosen for video submissions.

The three WMU video pitches include the following:

· The STEM Teaching and Learning Incubator, Dr. Todd Ellis, assistant professor of geography and science education, focuses on empowering K-12 educators to develop new approaches to teaching and learning STEM disciplines by providing a regional hub for instructors that offers support for design, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of their ideas.

· Reversibility: Future of Life on Earth, Dr. Bilinda Straight, professor of anthropology and of gender and women’s studies, asks how the reversibility, irreversibility and tipping points of different types of systems are determined and how this could potentially impact the future of life on Earth. Addressing this question requires novel ways to examine interconnections between systems that may include human experience and motivation.

· #WhyNotMe: Stem Diversity Drivers, Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Lori Wingate, director of research at The Evaluation Center, discuss novel ways to identify experiences that increase the success of underrepresented professionals in STEM fields.

The video pitches are open to public comment and analysis until June 26. Next, a Blue-Ribbon panel will select 12 "Big Ideas" to invite for virtual interviews. From this pool of 12, the NSF leadership will announce up to four winning big ideas.