Intel award bolsters STEM learning in Hillsboro
A Hillsboro middle school is one big step closer to bringing back shop classes and adding technology like 3D printers and virtual reality to the learning experience, thanks to a collaboration between Intel Corp. and the Hillsboro Hops.
The minor league baseball team struck a deal with Intel prior to the start of its season in June: For every batter a Hops pitcher struck out, Intel would donate $10 to the nonprofit Hillsboro Schools Foundation to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
For example, on "Star Wars Night" at Ron Tonkin Field last Friday, Aug. 16, the Force was with the Hops pitching staff. Four Hillsboro pitchers combined for 16 Ks — baseball parlance for 16 batters struck out — as the Hops defeated the Boise Hawks 2-1. That meant $160 for STEM education in Hillsboro public schools.
Intel instead, as a Hops media advisory put it, "generously rounded up" the donation.
As they head into another game Monday night, Aug. 19, Hops pitchers have struck out 578 opposing batters, which should be good for $5,780 and counting.
But on Saturday, Aug. 17, Intel presented a giant check for $50,000 to the Hillsboro Schools Foundation.
"We were pretty excited that every time … they struck out a player, that it was another $10," said Aron Carleson, executive director of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation. "But Intel made a bigger commitment than that."
Earlier this year, the foundation donated $150,000 for STEM education and shop classes at J.W. Poynter Middle School.
"We fundraised with all our different partners, as well as fundraising activities," Carleson said. "The Hops and Intel knew that that was our commitment and got on board, because they're covering everything Intel does with manufacturing and research."
High-tech employers like Intel have a vested interest in fostering STEM education in local schools.
Many of the young adults who graduate from those schools will enter the workforce in Washington County or elsewhere in the Portland metro area — sometimes immediately, sometimes after obtaining a two- or four-year degree, sometimes after obtaining an advanced degree. If they come out of high school having already been exposed to STEM concepts, more of them are likely to pursue a career in the tech and manufacturing sectors, and more will be qualified to take entry-level positions at companies like Intel, or other tech companies in the area like Tektronix and Lam Research, many of which are Intel suppliers.
Poynter is one of four middle schools in the Hillsboro School District. Carleson said the Hillsboro Schools Foundation hopes to rekindle shop programs at all of them.
R.A. Brown Middle School is on deck. The $50,000 award from Intel will go toward reestablishing shop classes at that school, Carleson said.
Brown is a feeder for Century High School.
"Century has a great manufacturing lab; they have marketing; they also have classes that teach you how to make apps; then the woodworking, welding and more," Carleson remarked.
If students are able to get some experience in some of those fields while they're still in middle school, Carleson suggested, that could pay dividends when they're choosing their high school electives.
"This way, they've tried many things," Carleson said. "But they're also learning a lot of lifelong skills along the way."
The Hillsboro Schools Foundation still has more money to raise before it makes its own big check presentation to Brown Middle School. But with the $50,000 from Intel in hand, the foundation is one-third of the way closer toward its goal.
Carleson feels good about the gift. The giant check is already hanging up in the foundation's office space, she said.
"We're just really thankful to Intel and all of their employees for the support, and also to the Hillsboro Hops for helping out their hometown," Carleson said.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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