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Students showcase STEM skills at Idaho Exhibition of Ideas

More than 50 students from across southwest Idaho worked to design and engineer solutions for environmental issues.

BOISE, Idaho — More than 50 students from nine teams across southwest Idaho put their STEM skills on display during the annual Idaho Exhibition of Ideas showcase - or IDX 2023. 

Teams of students spent months working to design and engineer 3D-printed models to present to a panel of judges from STEM fields. 

The showcase was created by the Idaho STEM Action Center, a state agency that focuses on STEM education and workforce development across Idaho. 

"STEM is very hands-on, it should be an engaging activity where students are free to explore  - it's filled with experiential learning," Idaho STEM Action Center Program Manager Erica Compton said. "So, it builds these durable skills of collaboration, teamwork, and critical thinking and problem solving that are just absolutely critical to the workforce of tomorrow."

IDX has a different theme every year. This year's showcase had students coming up with solutions to environmental issue they are passionate about.

"One of the most wonderful things about this project I think is that the students work collaboratively. They choose a problem that they want to find a solution to, and they are really the drivers of the process," Compton said. "The educators are there to guide and facilitate, and have them explore opportunities and options that they might not have already thought of."

Nine teams from eight schools participated in the showcase. Teams were divided into junior and senior divisions.

The top three teams from each division were:

Junior Division

  • 1st - IC3D, Basin Elementary School, Idaho City
  • 2nd - 3D Monkensteins, Shadow Hills Elementary School, Boise
  • 3rd - The K.I.C.K.E.S, Pepper Ridge Elementary School, Boise

Senior Division

  • 1st - The River Phoenixes, Xavier Charter School, Twin Falls
  • 2nd - STEMinators, Gooding Middle School, Gooding
  • 3rd - Awkward Turtles - Project Impact STEM Academy, Meridian

The top three teams from each divison were awarded cash prizes, and the first place teams won 3D printers.

'The River Phoenixes' from Xavier Charter School in Twin Falls designed an invention to spread seeds and replenish sagebrush.

"We chose a sagebrush seed spreader, because there's been a lot of forest fires and wildfires out in southern Idaho. So we chose that to help protect the native wildlife," Kinsey, a student on The River Phoenixes team said.

Idaho's next generation of scientists and engineers were judged by professionals working in different STEM fields.

"What I was looking for is how did the process of building something, 3D modeling something, result in a finding, or feedback into the design process," Ed Atienza, one of the judges, and an engineer manager at Schweitzer Engineering Labs said. "So, what I found is the top three teams from each division, some of the common traits I saw were they learned - modeling, building prototypes - and those lessons learned went back into the design to make them better."

The Idaho STEM Action Center hosts three regional IDX events every year. A showcase was hosted at Idaho State University last week, and another will be held at the University of Idaho later this month.

"One of the things that's really important is that students from all over Idaho have opportunities to excel and find their path, whether it's STEM or not," Compton said. "This project draws from all over the state."

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