Tech tacks: Gorge STEM efforts stay on course

The whole STEM effort in the Gorge took a couple of steps forward this week.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is an integrated educational approach that requires school-community participation, and continues to get it.

Two Hood River teams were among 11 First Lego League teams to advance to state (story, page A10) and Jeff Blackman received a well-deserved honor (page A1).

In the past five years the GTA has quietly developed a variety of cooperative efforts among tech companies of the region, with a major emphasis on fostering industry-to-school connections.

Gorge Technology Alliance members have enthusiastically embraced the idea of working directly with kids in hands-on programs such as First Lego League.

The Gorge has seen no more hard-working individual in this realm than Jeff Blackman, the robotics and electric car teacher at HRVHS.

He was honored for his inspiration and work in starting a robotics and engineering revolution that has affected schools throughout the Gorge, according to Jessica Metta, director of Gorge Technology Alliance.

Finalists for the Tech Leader of the Year included Rep. Mark Johnson of Hood River for his work in the Oregon legislature to support STEM education and the tech industry of the Gorge; Ken Levy, CEO and co-founder of 4-Tell Inc., for his leadership and inspiration at the helm of this fast-growing Gorge company; and Andy Mack, president and owner of Zepher Inc., for his leadership of the Bingen-based company and involvement with GORGE Junior Sailing Program for Kids.

Meanwhile, the FLL teams advance to state Jan. 18 or 19 in Hillsboro. Once school resumes after the winter break, the FLL kids will be back to their computers and Legos, designing and perfecting their programs for the challenges devised at state, and Blackman and his high school robotics teams will gear up to host regional competition at HRVHS Jan. 11.

As ever, the programs can use adult participation; no tech or engineering experience is necessary.

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