Idaho awards $180M school laptop contract to HP

Two weeks before the November election, in which Idaho voters could cancel the whole program, the state of Idaho has signed a $180 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student.

Von Hansen, vice president and general manager at HP Boise, who joined dignitaries including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna at the HP plant in Boise to announce the contract, said, “We’re proud to open this new chapter in our relationship with the state. … This is a great honor for HP.”

If voters turn thumbs down on Proposition 3 in two weeks, the contract will be canceled.

But Luna said, “This train has left the station when it comes to transforming our schools and the 21st century learning opportunity. We’ll see what happens on election day, but it’s not going to stop the transformation that’s happening.”

Mike Lanza, chairman of the Vote No on Props 1,2,3 campaign, said, “I think that the outcome of the election will determine whether anything goes forward.”

Luna pushed sweeping school reforms in three laws, all of which are now being tested by voters in referendum measures, after opponents gathered more than 74,000 signatures to place them on the ballot.

Proposition 1 removes most collective bargaining rights from teachers; Proposition 2 imposes a new merit-pay bonus system; and Proposition 3 requires big technology boosts, including laptops for every high school student and requiring two online classes to graduate, while rewriting state school funding formulas.

Luna pitched his plan, dubbed “Students Come First,” as a way to educate more students at a higher level without spending more. But the shift in funding priorities proved highly controversial.

The laws passed in 2011. Since last spring, the state has been working on selecting a vendor for the computers, but a formal bid process was canceled in June for lack of competitive bids. The state then began negotiating with up to half a dozen providers, before settling Oct. 23 on HP.

In addition to supplying and maintaining the laptop computers, the contract covers setting up and maintaining a wireless network in every Idaho high school, using broadband connections already supplied by the Idaho Education Network.

State funding formulas and budget figures suggested Idaho expected to spend tens of millions less for the eight-year contract, but state officials said they were happy with the price HP set. Luna said the contract works out to $249.77 per year per student or teacher for the laptops, with a quarter of them being replaced each year. When the wireless networks and professional development are added in, the average cost is $292.77 per student.

“It’s close to what we originally budgeted,” Luna said.

Otter hailed the selection of HP, which long has been one of the Boise area’s largest employers. “It’s a proud moment for me,” he said, “that we had an Idaho company that was the successful bidder and that will lead us into that 21st century classroom.”

Luna said, “”The economic opportunities that it provides this valley and the rest of the state is tremendous.”

Hansen said the notebook computers HP proposed are a “commercial-grade PC,” with a 14-inch screen, an all-aluminum front and back, and anti-shock technology that will protect the disc drive from damage if dropped. He identified the model as the HP Probook 4440s.

HP’s successful bid was a partnership that also included Education Networks of America for the wireless networks; Xtreme Consulting Group for tech support; Black Box for hardware fixes; and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy for training.


Idaho State University NSF-funded program attempts to blend western science/Native American culture to produce geoscientists

Three students from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are the first to enroll in an Idaho State University geosciences program that is designed to blend western science and Native American knowledge to produce more effective professionals for Indian Country.

ISU has received a $199,987, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation titled "Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences" that, if successful, could lead to a much larger grant, possibly $1 million or more, from the NSF.

The scope of the grant is large and is not adequately reflected in its title, according to the grant’s principal participants.

"We're looking at a holistic approach to produce Native American professionals in the geosciences who can go back to their tribes and be leaders," said Ken Trimmer, ISU business professor who is the grant's principal investigator.

Trimmer noted that Native Americans are underrepresented in a variety of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but geosciences is an especially important discipline because of all the land issues – from developing resources to cleaning up pollution – affecting reservation lands nationwide.

 "We're trying to marry the western scientific approach with the Native American approach to geosciences," said Michael McCurry, ISU geosciences professor and a co-principal investigator on the grant. "This project extends beyond the traditional STEM model of learning geoscience. We're hoping the traditional native cultural perspective and knowledge of the land can be blended with scientific training to bring new ways to solve nettlesome land-use problems."

The ISU geosciences department offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in geology and five different tracks in earth and environmental systems. Students admitted into the program can be awarded up to $5,000 per semester for tuition and expenses.

In addition, students in the program have been assigned an academic advisor, Mark Edwards, to tutor them in mathematics and other STEM disciplines. Edwards, who is part Kuna, the indigenous people of Panama, will also provide a wide range of academic and practical counseling and recruit students nationwide to participate in the program.

"We're providing robust advising and mentoring and seriously incorporating Native American culture into the development of their education and professional training," Trimmer said.

Bobette Haskett, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and a current participant in the ISU geosciences program, expressed her excitement about the program.

"It's awesome," Haskett said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for me as a Native American. There's lots of support like tutoring and help with what I need for school, whether it be financial or moral support. This is an excellent opportunity for ISU to interact with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and build a connection between the two."

Although current participants are residents of Southeast Idaho, the grant administrators are trying to recruit from throughout the country and the grant's named consultants includes one from Great Basin College in Elko, Nev., and one from Stone Child College, a tribally-controlled community college of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe located in Box Elder, Mont.

"I think the program is pretty cool and is a really great concept," Edwards said. "One of its best parts is that the Native American students can relate to and feel proud of what their culture has produced and how it relates to modern science."

An example of how Native American culture relates to modern science was demonstrated this summer during a Summer Youth Stem Education Experience organized for 14- to 17-year old Shoshone Bannock Tribes members that was funded in part by the NSF grant as a recruiting effort. Participants in the four-day program attended educational sessions on a variety of topics held at locations including Fort Hall Reservation, the Idaho National Laboratory, the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River and Craters of the Moon.

"I went on one of the field trips to the Craters of the Moon and each time we would make stop an ISU professor would speak about the area in terms of science and geology, followed by an elder from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes who would stand up and give a cultural story about the same area," Edwards said. "The two discussions blended on top of each other so perfectly."

As an example, at one point a hydrologist spoke of and held up a detailed satellite map of the Snake River Plain and its tributaries.  Then directly afterword, the tribal elder talked of Map Rock – a large boulder located on the west side of the Snake River Plain where over thousands of years shamans made carvings on the rock of each river that they had been to.  When the elder held the picture of the rock over the satellite map the similarities were nearly exact.

In another example, McCurry, a geosciences professor, lectured on the geology of the Craters of the Moon.  A tribal elder then spoke about what Native Americans had seen and recorded on the volcanic eruptions in the area.

"We saw cross-linkages between the science we were teaching and what the Native Americans had recorded in a storytelling format," McCurry said. "There's plenty we can learn from each other."

Students enrolled in the program, which emphasizes field- and laboratory-based hands-on training, can have their program individually tailored for them. For example, cross-disciplinary tracks are available in biological systems, environmental health, environmental policy and management, global environmental change and environmental geochemistry.




U-Idaho Creates Director of STEM Education Position, Names Hamilton 
MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho has named Melinda Hamilton as the new leader of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education initiatives. Hamilton will work to coordinate the University’s numerous STEM efforts and capitalize on its significant expertise, explore future partnerships and provide leadership to ensure program growth and success.
Hamilton, who has served as the director of educational programs at the Idaho National Laboratory or INL for four years, will begin her university appointment Oct 14.
“STEM education is an important priority for the University of Idaho, and I am pleased to have such a high quality individual such as Melinda Hamilton join our team,” said University of Idaho President, M. Duane Nellis. 
At the University of Idaho, STEM education has disciplinary connections to every college. This new position, and its focus, will be supported by U-Idaho’s college deans under the guidance of Cori Mantle-Bromley, dean of the College of Education.
“We are pleased that Melinda Hamilton will be joining the University of Idaho community and will lead our signature STEM education initiatives,” said Doug Baker, provost and executive vice president. “She will coordinate research across the university on a topic that is critical to Idaho and the nation.”
As part of her duties, Hamilton will develop and implement a long-term, strategic plan for the University of Idaho’s STEM education and research initiatives; collaborate with statewide STEM practitioners and other institutions involved in STEM education and research; provide leadership in developing interdisciplinary proposals leading to extramural funding and increasing levels for STEM educational research activities; and provide leadership in STEM recruitment and retention at the University of Idaho.
“The University of Idaho is already a leader in the state, and nationally, in STEM education, but we have the opportunity to create a greater impact on several levels,” said Hamilton. “The economic impact this will have on the future of Idaho, in terms of education and business opportunities, is both exciting and endless.”
Hamilton has a strong commitment and leadership role to STEM education around the state. With INL, she has established statewide relationships and program with universities and colleges and managed all INL K-12 STEM education programs. She also set and implemented the INL vision for STEM education and coordinated with the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the governor’s office, and the provosts, presidents and deans of the colleges of education of the three state-funded universities.
Additionally, she serves as a national leader as the key interface with national STEM education organizations and sponsors, including: TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM); Change the Equation; the Multi-State STEM Network; Battelle National Laboratory STEM Network; Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Workforce Development for Teachers and Students; and the Department of Energy’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Education Initiatives. She also has been appointed by the governor to serve on the Idaho State Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, Committee.
“Working from the industry side of STEM education, I am excited to begin laying the foundation at the University of Idaho to better prepare students and the next generation of the work force,” said Hamilton. “The university has a strong partnership with INL and I can only see it getting better.”
As a working professional, Hamilton kept academic ties throughout her career. Hamilton has served on two academic search committees at the University of Idaho, serves on several advisory boards at Idaho State University and the state, and served as graduate adviser to a Washington State University student and a Northeastern University student while an adjunct faculty member. She also has served as a guest lecturer at Brigham Young University Idaho and University of Idaho – Idaho Falls.
Hamilton earned her doctorate in soil science, with a microbiology emphasis, at Utah State University; and her master’s degree in botany, emphasis in plant ecology, and bachelor’s degree in biology at University of Nevada, Reno.


PCS Helps Idaho Schools Step Into the Future With STEM Education
PCS Edventures!.com, Inc., a leading provider of K-16 programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), today announced recent sales growth and presence in the state of Idaho.
Through strategic and returning sales, PCS already has a presence in over 350 classrooms in Idaho and the Vallivue School District recently placed a purchase order for three new "Academy of Engineering" classroom kits.
Suzy Haislip, PCS VP of K-6 Programs said, "We love doing business in Idaho; the schools in Vallivue are a prime example of how PCS can help teachers integrate STEM into their classrooms and curriculum." The expanding Vallivue implementation now consists of PCS STEM labs and curriculum used at multiple levels, including elementary, middle, and high school.
PCS also has three years of involvement with i-STEM, a statewide effort to support science, technology, engineering, and math education. Kellie Dean, PCS Director of Training, serves on the program's marketing committee and works to help teachers infuse STEM into their classrooms.
"We have been involved with i-STEM since its inception," Dean said. "Our work with the program resulted in the integration of our products into 75 classrooms over the past three years."



State Pushes for Better Science, Math Education


TWIN FALLS • Getting students excited about science and math isn’t always an easy task.

But as Idaho — and the nation — continues to experience a growing shortage of skilled workers with science-related degrees, it’s something state leaders are addressing. And it begins with education.

Rick Provencher, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho Operations Office, told an audience of teachers Tuesday that students need to have a mentor and get inspired about science, technology, engineering and math.“In my view, you’re the biggest asset,” he said during a keynote address at the College of Southern Idaho.The address was part of an annual workshop focused on science-related education. About 125 teachers are in TwinFalls this week for the i-STEMworkshop (for science, technology, engineering and math), one of four held around the state this month.

The statewide effort by education agencies and industry professionals seeks to improve STEMeducation in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

With baby boomers retiring, Provencher said there’s a shortfall of 3 million qualified workers with U.S. college degrees is projected nationwide by 2018.“That’s one of the challenges you have is to prepare for that gap,” he said.This week’s workshop offers teachers 20 hours of instruction on a variety of topics. Each teacher chooses one to focus on.Coordinator Bill Cairns — vice principal at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls — said group session topics included green energy, using technology to teach math, nutrition and health, and NASA space exploration.Provencher told the Times-News that it’s important for students to have a chance to apply what they learn in the classroom through hands-on work.

An example: Students from 17 schools around the country, including Idaho’s three research univerisities, use an Idaho National Laboratory advanced test reactor for research.

INLalso partners with state universities through the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. And students at those schools can compete for summer internships at INL.

Provencher said the lab has a need for engineers, scientists and information technology workers.

While job and research opportunities exist, not all students are interested in pursuing them.Ken Edmunds, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, told the Times-News that students nationally are showing less interest in pursuing a rigorous STEM education.

“We know that we are lagging in STEM education,” he said. 

In May, the ISBE hosted a summit to put together a roadmap for how to improve STEM education. ISBE spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney said the board aims to complete a draft plan this fall.

The topic is also part of the ISBE’s Complete College Idaho plan, which the board approved last week.

The goal is that 60 percent of Idaho residents between ages 25 and 34 will have a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020. That’s nearly double the state’s current average. 



Magic Valley teachers awarded mini grants to improve science education


Idaho National Laboratory has awarded mini grants to three Magic Valley teachers to help improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The grants, worth up to $1,000 each, can be used to purchase equipment and materials for classrooms. Several grants were awarded to other K-12 teachers throughout the state. 

In addition, Jenifer Junior High School in Lewiston was named this year’s Idaho National Laboratory Extreme Classroom Makeover recipient. The school’s physical science department has received a check for $10,000 to improve a laboratory used for conducting hands-on experiments with students. 

Local Mini Grant recipients include: (teacher, school, grant amount, how grant will be used) 

• T.J. Adams of Vera C. O’Leary Middle School in Twin Falls received $652 to buy a life-size human torso for anatomy lessons. 

• Jason Nance of Declo High School received $962.93 to purchase graphing calculators. 

• Peggy Thomas of Popplewell Elementary School in Buhl received $996 to buy an iPad and projector for her classroom.



Teachers Receive Grants From INL

Finding enough funding for schools and for classrooms is always tough, but this week, many teachers are celebrating throughout southeast Idaho because of mini grants the Idaho National Laboratory has awarded.


26 teachers in eastern Idaho have received grants from the INL to help improve S.T.E.M. education, which are science, technology, engineering and math.


These grants are worth up to $1,000 each and can be used to purchase equipment and materials for classrooms.


“Well the reason is in as many districts and small schools and rural areas that we have in Idaho it’s difficult to get the resources out to all the schools and without the appropriate resources teachers can’t really teach in a hands-on way unless they have equipment and materials and technology and so for kids to really learn inquiry based S.T.E.M. education they need to have access to those things and this just helps put a little more resources out in those schools that might not otherwise have it” said Director of Education Programs at the INL, Melinda Hamilton.


The grants are awarded to teachers from kindergarten all the way up to high school.

There’s also an open grant cycle system where the teachers can write a proposal explaining why they’d like to have the grant.


This year, one of the grant recipients is a teacher from Idaho Falls High School.


“I think that to get a grant it’s, always just, it’s exciting, I’m excited to tell the kids that they can now spend a little money to compete in some of the robotic competitions that they struggled this last year because they didn’t have the equipment” said Miles Hurley.


“I think there’s no doubt we see a greater interest in science with the students, more of them going on to take science classes in high school and then interested enough to go into those fields later” continued Hamilton.


While grants like these are great, one lucky school gets an extreme classroom makeover. This year’s winner is Jenifer Junior High School in Lewiston.


They will receive a check for $10,000 to improve a laboratory.



The funding for INL’s mini grants and extreme classroom makeover program comes from Battelle Energy Alliance, a nonprofit organization that operates the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy. 




Boise State team focuses on virtual labs for teaching the science of geochronology

Innovative methods to educate Idaho students about Earth history and geologic time are the focus of a two-year $149,895 grant awarded to Boise State University by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This new grant will allow an interdisciplinary project team from the departments of Geosciences and Educational Technology to design a series of virtual learning activities to teach the science of geochronology. Idaho public school students are introduced to the concept in middle school Earth sciences classes.

“Geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists and other scientists use geochronology to describe the timing of events that have occurred during the history of the Earth,” said Karen Viskupic, education program manager for geosciences and principal investigator for the project. “For example, it helps us describe when, and test ideas for why, dinosaurs became extinct.”

In addition to Viskupic, the project’s team of co-principal investigators includes Mark Schmitz, associate professor of geosciences, and Ross Perkins and Chareen Snelson, both assistant professors of educational technology.

Perkins said that the project’s virtual activities provide the course management and grading tie-in that is missing from most virtual products for the sciences. He said that the Boise State team’s virtual activities will work with online learning management systems, such as BlackBoard and Moodle.

“Teachers will get feedback as students work in a virtual lab,” Perkins said. “Students’ work will be assessed as they work through the activities and teachers will have an understanding of how well their students are learning.”




First Lady, Governor Honor Stem Teachers with GIANTS Award


First Lady Lori Otter today [April 10, 2012] recognized the exceptional efforts of three Idaho Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers by presenting them with the 2012 GIANTS Award at a ceremony held in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office. 

Timberline High School (Boise) teacher Dick Jordan; Jason George of Vision Charter School (Caldwell); and Lakeland School District’s (Rathdrum) Elementary Gifted and Talented teacher Elizabeth Brubaker were awarded $2,000 each as recipients of the Governor’s Industry Award for Notable Teaching in STEM (GIANTS). 

“Dick, Jason, and Elizabeth serve as a model of how educators can work with industry to enhance science and technology education.” Governor Otter said. “Teachers have a tremendous responsibility to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce. More than ever, we need teachers who can inspire students to lives spent in discovery, learning and achievement. Those teachers who excel deserve our support and recognition.”

The GIANTS program was initiated by the Office of the Governor and is sponsored by the Science and Technology Roundtable, a group of industry leaders including the Micron Foundation, Idaho National Laboratory, URS, Hewlett-Packard, LCF Enterprises, and Idaho Power Company. With support from the State Department of Education and Office of the State Board of Education, as well as the Discovery Center of Idaho, GIANTS recognizes teachers for their efforts to link industry and the economic future of Idaho to the classroom through the enhancement of science and technology education. 

Honorable Mention awards of $500 each were presented to three additional teachers: Paul Shaber of Fruitland High School, Mike Stansel of Rocky Mountain Middle School (Idaho Falls), and Tauna Johnson from Genesee Elementary School. 

All the participating teachers were nominated by the student council and/or parent groups at their school for making science exciting, challenging and relevant. A cash prize of $500 goes to each school/student council that nominated the GIANTS award recipients, with a cash prize of $100 going to each school/student council that nominated the Honorable Mention award recipients.

The GIANTS partners are firmly committed to the advancement of science and technology education and consider it vital to Idaho’s economic future. The Governor, First Lady and industry partners congratulate this year’s winners and honorable mentions for their significant contributions to education. 

Elementary School GIANTS Awardee:

The 2012 elementary school winner is Elizabeth Brubaker who teaches Lakeland School District’s Elementary Gifted and Talented classes. Elizabeth has a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut and was recognized as IBM and Classroom Magazine’s Computer Teacher of the Year for Idaho in 1990.

Elizabeth is passionate about encouraging kids to be inventive and creative and was instrumental in the creation of the Invent Idaho program as well as the co-author of the book Inventing for Kids. 

Elizabeth engages her students in FIRST Lego League, Mars Rover competition and other hands-on learning through science and research experiments. She also engages with area companies and subject matter experts to bring industry into the classroom.

Middle School GIANTS Awardee:

The GIANTS Middle School Teacher is Jason George of Vision Charter School in Caldwell. As a teacher and mentor, Jason has developed the entire school’s science curriculum. He also developed an innovation science mentoring program for school’s elementary teachers and has given numerous staff developments, teaching both methods and best practices for effective science instruction, K-12.

He leads groups of students through a variety of science competitions and challenges including Future Cities, Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, and the QuikScience Challenge through the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California, winning honors in each. Jason also coordinates a school-wide science night each year as a culminating activity for students to show their mastery of the scientific method. By using guest speakers and connecting his students with the community, they are able to see real-world application.

Jason has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology Education as well as a minor in biology from Northwest Nazarene University; he is also working towards his master’s degree in science education at Montana State University.

High School GIANTS Awardee:

The GIANTS High School Awardee is Dick Jordan. He serves in many roles at Timberline High School in Boise, teaching biology, environmental science, modified biology, physical science, AP biology, and AP environmental science. He was recently honored as the Idaho Science Teacher Association’s Teacher of the year and was a state finalist in the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science. 

Dick is the advisor/founder of TREE (Teens Reconnecting to Earth Experiences), Timberline’s outdoor/ecology club, as well as the DaVinci Club, Timberline’s Math/Science/Mythbuster/Chess club. Within the classroom setting, he designs programs and projects with DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) and the National Park Service to help students get outdoors while learning and caring for the environment. Some examples include launching and involving the community, high school students, and elementary school students.

He holds bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Spanish from Idaho State University, master’s coursework in wildlife and fisheries science at Texas A&M, and a master’s of education degree in Education, with a focus on integrating technology in the classroom, from Walden University. 





STEM Education – Idaho's Roadmap to Innovation and Success Developing Strategies and Actions K-20

The purpose of the 2012 STEM Summit is to bring together STEM education stakeholders to work on a roadmap for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. For several years, stakeholders have been meeting regularly to assess the programs and progress for STEM education in Idaho. Now we are on to the next step which is to develop a strong K-20 plan for STEM education. It will be an integral part of the state's goal to develop an education system that prepares our students to compete globally in an "innovation economy." 

 Tuesday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

  • Discovery Center of Idaho | Reception and Gallery Walk of Idaho STEM programs and organizations

Wednesday, May 9, 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Boise State University, Student Union Building | Morning speakers include two Idaho teachers currently serving as Einstein Fellows at the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation and a representative from The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES).

Afternoon work session will focus on goals for creating Idaho's STEM roadmap for preparing Idahoans for an innovation economy.