STARBASE Minnesota – Duluth receives $25,000 from Minnesota Power Foundation to help add classrooms, serve more children.

Duluth, Minn. –STARBASE Minnesota – Duluth has received a $25,000 gift to its classroom expansion campaign from the Minnesota Power Foundation. The donation is the campaign’s first major sponsorship.

Aimee Curtis, Minnesota Power Foundation administrator, and Lori Hoyum, policy manager at Minnesota Power, presented the $25,000 check to STARBASE at a brief ceremony Friday, April 19, at the 148th Fighter Wing.

“We are delighted to announce that Minnesota Power has joined STARBASE as the first classroom sponsor of the capital campaign project to expand our program over the course of the next year,” said Charity Rupp, STARBASE Minnesota – Duluth director.

STARBASE Minnesota is a nonprofit education organization that delivers STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum to area fifth graders. Headquartered in St. Paul, STARBASE expanded to Duluth in July 2017, where it offers the unique learning experience in two transitional classrooms at the 148th Fighter Wing on the Duluth Air Force Base. A planned expansion at the 148th Fighter Wing headquarters will provide four dedicated classrooms equipped with a variety of technologies and allow the program to serve more than 2,500 students. The program currently is at capacity, serving 1,400 students annually. Groundbreaking on the expansion is expected this summer.

“Expanding the program and doubling the number of classrooms will enable STARBASE to serve more students from a wider area in northeastern Minnesota,” said Hoyum, who serves as Vice Chair on the STARBASE Advisory Board. “Fifth-graders from communities on the Iron Range, up the North Shore and down the I-35 corridor will be able to participate in this one-of-kind, hands-on learning experience that broadens a student’s world in ways that the traditional classroom isn’t able to.”

STARBASE programming is taught by a team of licensed instructors and supported by cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, GPS, CAD programs, 3-D printers and scientific equipment. Over the course of a week, students also explore numerous STEM-related careers.

“The partnership with Minnesota Power is a natural fit for the immersive STEM education curriculum that STARBASE provides to students. The emerging technologies being utilized for the purposes of energy and resource exploration goes hand-in-hand with what the students are learning each day at STARBASE,” Rupp said. “The other exciting opportunity is the chance to bring in local scientists, engineers, and other professionals in STEM careers at Minnesota Power to share their work and research with students who may be interested in careers in STEM.”

STARBASE is designed to help develop the next generation workforce. Employment in science and engineering occupations is expected to increase at almost four times the rate for other occupations.

“Opening up the world of STEM to students at this age is critical as we think about growing and retaining the workforce in greater Minnesota,” Rupp said. “Our region is home to businesses such as Minnesota Power that need workers with STEM skills. STARBASE can contribute to the area’s workforce development by helping equip students with these essential skills and pave the way for them to find career opportunities in STEM fields that exist right here.”

STARBASE was created in 1991 and is a program of the Department of Defense and Minnesota National Guard. Its free, hands-on STEM curriculum aligns with state and national standards. Students spend 25 hours across five days on-site with their class focusing on real-world problem solving and applications using cutting-edge technologies. The immersive approach enables students to become more aware of STEM in the world around them and gain confidence through their success.