STEM takes over the Statehouse

Students from elementary to high school showed off their technology and engineering skills to lawmakers Tuesday in celebration of STEM Matters! — a campaign to raise awareness about science, technology, engineering and math in Idaho.

The Idaho STEM Action Center hosted more than 300 Treasure Valley students who showcased their classroom STEM projects and tools. Students explained to lawmakers the critical and creative thinking skills they are using at school.

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Kellie Taylor, an engineering teacher at West Ada’s Galileo STEM Academy, is showing Rep. Phylis King a STEM project that is used in her classroom.

“I learned about STEM through a pilot program at school,” said  Bridget Fitzpatrick, sophomore at Timberline High School. “I think Idaho is moving into the right direction and starting kids at a young age with STEM activities.”

The 2015 Legislature created the STEM Action Center to build a workforce to match the employment opportunities in STEM. The center’s strategy is to strengthen Idaho’s STEM career pipeline with education and professional development for teachers. The Legislature made a commitment to accomplish these goals — $4.5 million, including $1.5 million in ongoing funds. The STEM Matters! event featured how the money is spent in the classroom.

“We need to make sure student are coming out of school with the skills necessary to move into a career,” said Angela Hemingway, the executive director of the STEM Action Center.

Hemingway will ask legislators to continue funding at $4.5 million during her budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday.

“This is positive,” Hemingway said. “Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation supports and matches what we need.”

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According to the Department of Labor, Idaho lost $240 million in unclaimed wages with the 3,818 unfilled STEM jobs. By 2025, it’s predicted Idaho will be lacking 63,000 workers to fill jobs ranging from the construction and service sectors to medical and technology fields. Many of these job will require STEM-related skills and knowledge.

The STEM Action Center is housed under Gov. Butch Otter’s office