PLE nets STEM grant

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PRIEST LAKE — For every hand a device, for every mind a challenge.

This was the title of Priest Lake Elementary’s grant request to the Idaho STEM Action Center, with the goal of providing the small, rural school with an iPad for every student, completing the set the school had already started on.

As such, PLE was awarded one of 70 grants statewide — the only school in the West Bonner County School District — receiving $7,700 for the devices through a computer science grant.

“Our teachers continue to work hard for our students and create opportunities for them,” said Paul Anselmo, PLE principal and WBCSD superintendent. “This STEM grant is just another instance of this hard work, our students enjoy integrating technology into their lessons. Technology is a great tool to keep them engaged and prepared for future endeavors. A big thank you goes out to the Idaho STEM Action Center and to our teachers for taking advantage of this grant opportunity. Our students will enjoy the opportunity this provides.”

The center awarded 70 grants worth more than $250,000 to schools, districts, libraries, and out-of-school and youth-enrichment programs statewide to advance science, technology, engineering, and math education, according to a statement from center officials last week. North Idaho schools and organizations earned 15 of the grants worth more than $57,000.

According to the statement, the center, 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 worth $124,438.44.

The computer science grants primarily fund hardware and software 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 center began offering in 2017, remains strong. “This time total requests for our CS and PK12 grants exceeded $556,000,” Dr. Angela Hemingway, the center’s executive director, said in the statement. “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.”

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 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, 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 Hemingway.

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 center 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.

Information: stem.idaho.gov

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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