The Boeing Company has awarded the King County Library System Foundation (KCLSF) an $80,000 grant to help the King County Library System (KCLS) expand STEAM education. The aim is to increase access to technology and 21st-century workplace skills for thousands of low-income and underserved families.
With the Boeing grant, the KCLS can broaden the size of its ideaX program that offers hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design, and Math) activities. In April, KCLS opened its first ideaX Makerspace at the Bellevue Library, drawing about 900 people. Because of Boeing’s grant, KCLS will complete a second dedicated ideaX space at the Federal Way Regional Library in south King County.
Besides the KCLS Makerspace in Bellevue, KCLS Mobile Services provide ideaX kits to 49 county libraries. There were a total of 357 ideaX programs offered in 2017. IdeaX programs had more than 10,000 attendees in 2017 and expect about 12,000 attendees by the end of 2018.
KCLS executive director Lisa Rosenblum said KCLS is “honored and thrilled” that the KCLS Foundation was awarded the grant.
“Boeing is known for innovation and leading-edge technology,” Rosenblum said in a press release. “This funding recognizes our own efforts to promote innovative thinking, and to ensure that STEAM learning is more widely available and accessible.”
In 2016, KCLS developed ideaX as a pilot program. The pilot program was in response to educational research showing the importance of out-of-school learning to improve science, technology, engineering, math skills, and later added, arts.
With the Boeing grant in place, more families will have the opportunity to experience educational STEAM activities like virtual reality, 3-D printing and music composition with specialized software.
The KCLSF applied for the Boeing grant to address two concerns: lack of educational access, particularly technology, and the need for tech-literate workers.
The ideaX program is open to all but primarily focuses on closing the county’s equity gap. Closing the equity gap allows underserved populations to learn new skills. Underserved populations include homeless youth, long-term unemployed or underemployed, elderly, low-income families, refugees, immigrants and non-English speakers.
KCLS Executive Director, Elizabeth Castleberry said the merging of the two needs — access to education and for a qualified workforce — is a challenge but presents the community a unique opportunity.
“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 difference,” Castleberry said.
KCLSF funds the future of King County libraries and with the Boeing Company, KCLS will have the opportunity to expand its library programs.