Altamont’s Sydney Nielson Scores CenturyLink STEM Excellence Award

Katherine KireievSTEM Awards, STEM in Utah

Altamont High School 8th grader and CenturyLink STEM Excellence honoree Sydney Nielson (above, center) is as much a STEM star as she is a stellar scholar and student mentor. A straight-A student her entire academic career, Sydney is exceptional in many areas, but her passion for STEM truly stands out—especially against the backdrop of her small, rural community. Sydney was celebrated in full-court NBA style at this week’s Utah Jazz game against the Miami Heat.

Home to about 250 people, Altamont is a tiny Utah town with huge heart at the center of a ranching and farming region with a collective population of around 2,000. Considering that several Utah high schools are home to more than 2,000 students, Sydney’s accomplishments in the areas of computer science and robotics would seem to serve as exceptions to rule. In truth, Sydney’s dedication and involvement in STEM have helped advance Altamont’s schools to the leading edge of VEX robotics.  

“I do robotics to show other people that they can do anything no matter who they are,” Sydney said. “I also love the competition and seeing the robot work like it is supposed to.”

When Sydney was in fourth grade, the middle school robotics team was in dire need of someone who could lead a research project.  She didn’t hesitate in stepping up to the challenge, completing the project while surpassing expectations. As a fourth grader, she traveled and competed with the middle school team.

From that point on, Sydney was set on STEM.

In the summer before her fifth grade year, she competed in the Google MoonBots program. She won a VEX IQ set as part of the competition, starting her on the VEX robotics path. In fifth grade, she led her school’s VEX IQ team, and their robot went on to sweep multiple tournaments that year, moving on tothe State VEX IQ Compeition. Seven awards were offered; Sydney’s team claimed four, including the top-honor VEX IQ Excellence Award—sending them to compete in the VEX IQ Worlds competition.

Her sixth and seventh grade years brought the same sweeping success and showings at the VEX IQ Worlds competition; her seventh grade VEX IQ robot and engineering notebook won the design challenge at state, one of very few robots scoring in every possible category. During her seventh grade year, Sydney also competed on her high school’s inaugural VEX robotics team in the seventh grade. Her skills and experience steered the development and design of the team’s engineering notebook to success, with the Altamont High School team advancing to the state’s VEX Robotics Championship in their debut year.

Sydney’s current team has the highest robot skills score in the state, and her robot is the product of advanced design techniques she learned through hands-on STEM over the previous four years. Sydney codes in RobotC language, and is excited to be learning C++.

And it doesn’t end with VEX for Sydney, who has served leadership roles in STEM summer camps, helping other students succeed in robotics. “I just do what I love,” Sydney added. “I think that’s the key to life.”

Congratulations, Sydney, on your many wins—here’s to your continued STEM success!

Utah STEM Foundation Rolls Out 1st Girls Who Code Entrepreneurship Challenge

Katherine KireievSTEM Awards, STEM in Utah, STEM Partners

Are you an innovator?
Do you have what it takes to change your community?

The Utah STEM Action Center’s nonprofit, The Utah STEM Foundation, is excited to announce the 1st STEM Entrepreneurship Challenge benefitting Girls Who Code (GWC) clubs in Utah.  This is a great opportunity for GWC Clubs to be awarded grants towards STEM Scholarships, funding towards equipment, or funding for STEM in your associated school that highlight individuals and clubs’ efforts, expand Girls Who Code clubs statewide, and incentivize them to continue on in STEM subjects.

This challenge is available to all individuals and clubs involved in The Girls Who Code program to enter their project, nominate their rock-star peers in the program, and highlight their facilitators who go above and beyond.  Some of the areas we will focus on include:

  • An Essay Contest for elementary-school clubs
  • Facilitator Awards
  • Peer Mentor Award
  • Club Challenge awards that address social and environmental issues, business challenges/opportunities, etc.

Application guidelines and information on how to apply will be sent out early January, and applications will be open mid-March. For additional information, please contact Erin Paulsen at

Can you hack it?

Stay tuned!

BambooHR Gives $10K to Grow STEM

Katherine KireievSTEM in Utah, STEM Partners

Utah-rooted BambooHR marked its 10-year growth by giving the Utah STEM Foundation $10,000 this week. The company’s ’10 for 10!’ anniversary initiative benefitted 10 local and national organizations.

Additional Utah recipients include:

The Road Home
Utah Food Bank
Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
Huntsman Cancer Foundation
UVU Women’s Success Center
Nami Utah
“All of these organizations address needs in the world that we are passionate about,” the BambooHR team stated in its donation letter. “We’ve tried to build Bamboo HR in a way that makes a positive impact in the world for our customers and team members.”


Boeing Grants $75K to launch ‘Utah STEM Collective Impact’ study

Katherine KireievSTEM in Utah, STEM Partners

World’s largest aerospace company awards funding to support the
Utah STEM Action Center’s 
analysis of statewide STEM education efforts

SALT LAKE CITY —Boeing has announced that it is granting the Utah STEM Foundation $75,000 to support the Utah STEM Action Center (STEM AC) in launching the “Utah STEM Collective Impact” study.

“We are ecstatic about Boeing’s level of commitment to STEM education in the State of Utah,” said Allison Spencer, director of the Utah STEM Foundation. “Boeing has been an industry champion, working with many key stakeholders to assess the effectiveness of our efforts in STEM education and talent development.”

The “Utah STEM Collective Impact” analysis focuses on the impact of STEM education efforts to prepare Utah students for entry into STEM careers while also gauging their bearing on the state’s long-term economic growth. Boeing’s contribution will allow the STEM AC to expand their collaborative work with existing partners, including Davis School District and the Utah Education Policy Center, to measure impacts of STEM education efforts.

“Our people have unique skills and an unwavering passion for making a difference in the world, both through our products and services and the ways we give back to our communities,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and chief executive officer. “When that’s combined with our professional networks, partnerships and financial resources, we have the potential to drive positive, lasting change across the globe in important areas such as STEM learning.”

Information gathered in the course of this analysis will build upon data the STEM AC and other partners have collected to help maximize outcomes and inform future activities.

“We are excited about the collaborative nature of this project,” said Dr. Tamara Goetz, STEM Action Center Executive Director. “Are students gravitating to STEM fields because of these efforts? Choosing STEM careers? We need to identify effective practices, as well as understand how we are making a difference and where we can improve our efforts to promote student interest. Boeing’s generous support helps us to build our capacity to work with partners to address critical longitudinal questions.”


American Fork High School Senior Jason Roberts Receives CenturyLink STEM Excellence Award

Katherine KireievSTEM Awards, STEM in Utah

Jason Roberts (center) accepts the CenturyLink STEM Excellence Award, alongside his father Jeremy Roberts (left), presented by CenturyLink official Kelly Hazard (right) at the Nov. 21, 2018, Utah Jazz game in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

American Fork High School senior Jason Roberts—this season’s first CenturyLink STEM Excellence Award recipient—is a standout STEM student who’s dedicated to excellence both within and outside of school.

Jason was recognized for his achievements at the Nov. 21, 2018, Utah Jazz game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

“Jason is the perfect student to receive this award,” said nominator Tanner Bowman, computer programming and web development teacher at American Fork High School. “He’s been working on his own programming projects his entire time in high school. He re-created Minecraft from scratch using pure Java programming.”

Ranked No. 1 of 733 students in his graduating class, Jason carries a 4.0 GPA and demonstrates strong leadership qualities. In addition to developing his own computer programming language, the Eagle Scout serves as president of the AFHS Computer Science Club, and is vice president of the school’s Technology Student Association (TSA) Club, still finding time to produce and anchor AFHS morning video announcements.

And it doesn’t stop there. Jason is currently interning for Horrocks, working with UDOT on traffic light systems and fiber optics.

“Many people don’t usually associate science, technology, engineering and math with creativity,” said Jason. “Mathematics is what I would call an art form. I am very passionate about finding creative solutions to the world’s seemingly impossible problems.”

Congratulations, Jason! Keep up the excellent work.

STEM Expo for K-12

Melanie ShepherdMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

Educators know how important it is to prepare students for the growing demand for workers trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Industry leaders and educators hope by working together they can generate solutions to the shortage of STEM workers. The Expo is intended to introduce young people to local STEM professionals and acquaint them with the educational and career opportunities in those fields, according to a release.

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4th Annual STEM Fest a Roaring Success

Katherine KireievSTEM in Utah

Utah Stars mascot Buster was on-scene at Utah STEM Fest Family Night at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah, on Oct. 23, 2018.

In Utah, a visit to a Jazz game or our state colleges’ stadiums is proof positive that we get fired up over local superstars – and that we know how to make noise. STEM Fest’s 4th annual showcase of standout Utah STEM companies on October 23 – 24 underscored our propensity for being loud and proud.

There’s nothing like a conference center packed with thousands of K-12th grade students and their families to amp up the decibels. The buzz about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities was literally palpable.

Utah STEM Fest is a production of the Utah STEM Action Center, with support from more than 100 STEM-related organizations and exhibiting sponsors including US Synthetic, the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, Rio Tinto, IM Flash, Dominion Energy and more.

Held at the Mountain America Expo Center, the event was a hands-on showcase of applied science and technology projects that spark children’s interests in STEM career opportunities available in Utah. This year’s highlights included interactive drone and robot exhibits, live performances by educational BMX performance group StuntMasters, and local magician Paul Brewer’s STEM Shows on public night, which are renowned among schools statewide for their engaging and entertaining fusion of scientific principles and comedic flair.

This year’s STEM Fest drew thousands of students from schools statewide during two days of field-trip sessions. It also featured a free-admission STEM Fest Family Night. And it wasn’t all about the noise – new this year was a sensory-friendly event for students with special needs and their families.

Toned-down or full-blast, STEM Fest stirred quite the buzz among those individuals who, in many cases, were able to experience hands-on STEM activities that certainly sparked interests in STEM careers – particularly the thousands of high-paying jobs with superstar STEM companies right here at home.