From STEM kits to helping high school students choose a major, recent Engineering alumnus continues entrepreneurial pursuits
While the world was under COVID-19 safety measures, Phoenix-area native and recent mechanical engineering graduate Alex Reader, B.S. ’20, was starting his own STEM education company called STIIX. Reader’s business started with a tinkering kit subscription for young people with training videos and individual feedback. Examples of projects include a bridge, a rocket, a glider plane and a wind turbine, among others.
“In the videos, we talk about the project’s relation to the real world, as well as the academic side, including the STEM principles at stake. With the glider project, for example, we teach the kids about lift, thrust and drag – how airplanes fly,” says Reader. “We try to set kids up for success without giving them all the answers, then we teach them how to test, evaluate and iterate their design.”
Reader enlisted several Baylor friends to make supplemental videos about STEM career paths that correspond with each project. The goal is to help kids think about what they want to be when they grow up.
“We bring in someone who works in that field to give a quick, informal spotlight on the industry he or she is in,” Reader says. Catherine Lontz, B.S. ’20, who now works at Honeywell Aerospace, is a great example. “She ties together how what the kids learn with the glider plane project is what she does professionally in the real world.”
Although Reader anticipated his customers primarily would be middle-class families, a pivot away from the subscription model has proven to be a good move. Now focusing on more business-to-business opportunities, Reader has found demand in children’s hospitals, public schools and even government entities.
Child life specialists are using the kits to engage children who are limited by hospital beds. Schools and districts around the Southwest are using the activities in summer and enrichment programs, and representatives from the City of San Antonio reached out to STIIX to create a water systems kit. Their goal is to educate the public, creating more conservation-minded, water-literate citizens. STIIX hosts the San Antonio water kit, along with the rest of their curriculum online at, hellostiix.com.
While STIIX still offers their subscription, manufacturing operations tend to look a little different these days as they cater more to a classroom setting.
Reader works alongside a curriculum specialist, Kara McBride, to “help take what were previously just fun, educational activities and enhance them into a full program of engineering school-inspired projects that align with state and national science standards,” he says. “We tweaked some of the content that goes inside the kits, reshot our instructional videos and created lesson plans/resources for teachers to easily administer the kits. Teachers are being asked to do a lot right now, so making those resources user-friendly for educators was a big emphasis of ours.”
Teachers appreciate what the hybrid model allows them to do, and STIIX kits/programs are now integrated at nearly two dozen elementary schools across three states, Reader reports. At short-staffed schools in the Phoenix area, college students from partnering student organizations at Grand Canyon University lead the programs for STIIX.
Reader says the K-8 curriculum is just one facet of the overall vision of STIIX. Many young people struggle to determine how their interests and passions can match with a college major to result in a long-term, fulfilling career.
To help solve that common problem, Reader is beginning the next entrepreneurial phase – an educational technology platform called Wikeo that helps high school students identify a passion and degree program in which they can thrive. In the Wikeo YouTube video, Reader outlines the venture, where current college students and recent graduates share unscripted, personalized advice with individual high school students based on their shared interests.
“I am so thankful for my time and experience at Baylor, and specifically in Engineering for how it has contributed to my entrepreneurial journey,” Reader says. “The connections I made, the work ethic I developed and my spiritual maturity during my time in Waco has helped me through the highs and lows over the last year. We have a long way to go to get to the larger vision, but I know God is going to continue to be faithful in the small steps we are taking to get there.”