Idaho STEM Action Center awards 70 grants worth $266K

The Idaho STEM Action Center has awarded 70 grants worth more than one-quarter million dollars to schools, districts, libraries, and out-of-school and youth-enrichment programs statewide to advance science, technology, engineering, and math education. Magic Valley and Wood River Valley schools and organizations earned 10 of the grants worth more than $53,000.

The organization, part of the Executive Office of the Governor, awarded a total of $266,445.58 via two grant programs: 16 Computer Science Grants worth $142,007.14 and 54 PK12 Innovative STEM Project Grants representing $124,438.44.

The CS Grants will fund hardware and software primarily used for coding, such as tablets, laptop and desktop computers, drones and TC-AYS aircraft, robots, and gear that supports platforms like ALICE, Arduino, Blocksmith, CAD, Code.org, and VR. Students will use these devices to learn coding, software-development tools, and such languages as Java, C++, Python, and Scratch. Applicants could request up to $10,000.

The PK12 Innovative STEM Project Grants will fund creative science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer-science programs that are hands-on or project-based. The grant dollars will fulfill everything from 3D-printing initiatives, cybersecurity exercises, robotics and drone programs, and stop-motion animation classes to BrickLAB design challenges, aquaponics and meteorological projects, and STEM-related field trips to state parks -- even Bogus Basin SnowSchool science camps. Applicants could request up to $2,500.

Demand for the grants, which the STEM Action Center began offering in 2017, remains strong. "This time total requests for our CS and PK12 grants exceeded $556,000," STEM A.C. executive director Dr. Angela Hemingway said. "It's a competitive process and we had to decline 48 requests -- two out of five applicants -- but with additional industry support we could more fully fund the needs of Idaho's STEM community."

Dr. Hemingway said this underscores the need for the Idaho STEM Action Center Foundation. Her agency created the nonprofit a year ago to offer organizations and individuals a way to make tax-deductible donations to the STEM Action Center and enhance the investment the state has made in Idaho's STEM community. The foundation is accepting donations, and to date it has raised nearly $200,000 through grants, gifts, and sponsorships. In total, the STEM Action Center has raised more than $1.5 million from third parties to enhance its efforts to support STEM opportunities statewide.

Offering grants to boost STEM learning opportunities is critical to the state's continued economic prosperity, according to Dr. Hemingway.

"Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation. We have the third-fastest job growth and the second fastest technology sector growth," she said. "Meanwhile, Idaho's unfilled STEM jobs leaped from 3,800 in 2016 to 6,300 in 2018, which represents nearly $413 million in lost personal wages and more than $22 million in lost state tax receipts. The Idaho Department of Labor predicts upwards of 100,000 STEM jobs will exist in Idaho by 2024. These jobs will represent $6.5 billion in personal income and almost $350 million in tax revenue if Idaho's workforce is posed to fill them. If we do nothing these unfilled jobs could represent a devastating blow to our economy."

The Idaho Department of Labor anticipates robust job growth in STEM careers by 2024: 14 percent in computing, 9 percent in engineering, and 23 percent in advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing and design.

MAGIC-WOOD RIVER VALLEYS COMPUTER SCIENCE GRANT RECIPIENTS

CS Grant recipients include Buhl Middle School (Buhl), Heritage Academy (Jerome), South Hills Middle School (Twin Falls), and West Minico Middle School (Paul).

MAGIC-WOOD RIVER VALLEYS PK12 INNOVATIVE STEM PROJECT GRANT RECIPIENTS

PK12 grant recipients include Bellevue Elementary School (Hailey), Buhl Middle School (Buhl), Ernest Hemingway STEAM School (Ketchum), Gooding Public Library (Gooding), and West Minico Middle School (Paul).

ABOUT THE IDAHO STEM ACTION CENTER

The Idaho STEM Action Center was created in 2015 because Idaho citizens are not entering the STEM pipeline fast enough to meet current and future Idaho workforce needs. Its goals are to coordinate and facilitate implementation of STEM programs, align education and workforce needs, and increase awareness of STEM throughout Idaho. The organization is working with industry, government, educators, and students to develop new resources and support high-quality teacher professional-development opportunities to foster a STEM-educated workforce that ensures Idaho's continued economic prosperity. Visit STEM.Idaho.gov for more information.

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