From the King County Library System:
The King County Library System Foundation (KCLSF) has been awarded an $80,000 grant from the Boeing Company to help the King County Library System (KCLS) expand STEAM education, with the aim of increasing access to technology and 21st-century workplace skills for thousands of low-income and underserved families.
The Boeing grant will enable KCLS to broaden the size of its ideaX program, which offers free hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Math) activities that inspire people to explore creativity and emerging technology. KCLS’ first ideaX Makerspace opened in April at the Bellevue Library, drawing an estimated 900 people. Thanks in part to Boeing; KCLS will complete a second, dedicated ideaX space at Federal Way Regional Library in south King County.
“We are honored and thrilled that the KCLS Foundation has been awarded this generous grant from Boeing,” said Lisa Rosenblum, KCLS Executive Director. “Boeing is known for innovation and leading-edge technology. This funding recognizes our own efforts to promote innovative thinking, and to ensure that STEAM learning is more widely available and accessible.”
KCLS developed ideaX as a pilot program in 2016 in response to educational research showing the increasing importance of out-of-school learning to improve science, technology, engineering and math skills (STEM). Recognizing the value of creativity, educators later added Art (STEAM).
The Boeing grant will allow more students and families to experience such fun and educational STEAM activities as virtual reality, 3-D printing, and music composition with specialized software. Patrons can learn how to digitize photos, use programmable sewing machines, play with “squishy circuits,” and watch a robot solve a Rubik’s Cube.TM
In addition to the dedicated Makerspace at Bellevue Library, KCLS Mobile Services provides ideaX kits to KCLS’ 49 libraries. A total of 357 ideaX programs, including outreach, was offered in 2017. Attendance at ideaX programs was 10,096 in 2017. An estimated 12,000 attendees are anticipated by the end of 2018.
The King County Library System Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising organization that supports the Library System by augmenting public dollars. The KCLSF secured funding to enlarge the Tukwila Library and to offer and expand programs such as the Global Reading Challenge that encourage reading.
The Foundation applied for the Boeing grant on KCLS’ behalf to help address two prime concerns: inequities in educational access, particularly with respect to technology, and the need for tech-literate workers. The ideaX program is open to all, but focuses on closing the County’s equity gap, allowing underserved populations to learn new skills and use them to innovate. Underserved populations include homeless youth; long-term unemployed or underemployed; the elderly; low-income families, and refugees, immigrants, and speakers of languages other than English.
“The convergence of these two needs–for access to education and for a qualified workforce–is a challenge, but it is a challenge that also presents our community with a unique opportunity,” said Elizabeth Castleberry, Executive Director of the KCLS Foundation. “The Foundation believes that ideaX is an ideal way to meet that opportunity, and we are so grateful to The Boeing Company. This grant will make a big difference.”
Castleberry added that not only would the grant help KCLSF reach its overall $2.1 million annual fundraising goal for ideaX, but “will inspire other corporations and foundations to consider giving to the Foundation.”
Foundation Board member Ducksoon Hwang added, “It is wonderful to have partners like The Boeing Company supporting the KCLS Foundation. Their support is a testament to the impact that the King County Library System has on our communities.”