Idaho’s STEM Action Center scheduled to open July 1

The state’s new STEM Action Center — devoted to science, technology, engineering and math — is on track to open this summer.

Butch Otter STEM Center
Gov. Butch Otter speaks at the 2015 STEM Summit on Wednesday in Boise. Photo by Clark Corbin / Idaho Ed News.

Speaking Wednesday at the State Board of Education’s 2015 STEM Summit at Boise State University, Gov. Butch Otter said the new center should be operational by July 1.

Idaho lawmakers created the STEM center earlier this year, after convening their first STEM Caucus. Based on a center in Utah, Idaho’s STEM center would be designed to coordinate and promote science, technology, engineering and math initiatives and education across the state.

“We want to be up and running by the first of July, and I don’t see any reason we won’t be,” Otter said.

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people, including educators and industry representatives, Otter said state leaders are putting together a center board of directors. After that, state leaders will name an executive director and program manager for the center, which will be housed in Otter’s office.

“The focus of STEM is really the future of our economy,” Otter said.

House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, and Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, led the legislative push for the STEM Caucus and action center.

In legislative lingo, a caucus is a group of lawmakers that gathers or rallies around a single topic or initiative, although a caucus does not enjoy the same power as a normal legislative committee.

Attendees at the daylong STEM Summit included Nonini, State Board of Education President Emma Atchley, BSU President Bob Kustra, representatives of Idaho National Laboratory, Micron Technology, Idaho Business for Education and the Idaho Technology Council.

Although education is an important component of the STEM Action Center, State Board of Education Chief Planning and Policy Officer Tracie Bent said the efforts must gain traction beyond classrooms and campuses.

“To be successful, it can’t just be STEM education initiatives,” Bent said. “We have to include the community at large, the work force, and really change some cultural views often in rural area regarding the importance of STEM and STEM education.”

Disclosure: Idaho Ed News is based out of Boise State University and Ed News journalists are BSU employees.

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