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Fewer than six weeks after the governor signed it into law, a $10 million program aimed at improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Utah is getting off the ground.

The governor has so far appointed 10 of 11 members of a board to run the new STEM Action Center, with about half representing businesses and half representing education. The Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), which oversees the center, has also nominated scientist and entrepreneur Carol Curchoe George as state science advisor. The position will be paid for by the governor's office, not out of the bill's funds, said Sophia DiCaro, GOED deputy director.

The center is also working to hire three staff members, including an administrative assistant to be paid $14.92 to $24.79 an hour; an executive director to be paid $41.50 to $52.89 an hour; and a program manager at $31.13 to $43.11 an hour. Those positions will be funded by the bill, HB139.

HB139 passed the House and Senate unanimously despite early concerns about the program being run by the governor's office rather than the State Office of Education and about whether the money would be better put toward issues such as class size or per pupil spending.

The idea behind the center is to find best practices for teaching STEM and implement them in Utah schools to interest more students in those fields.

"There are ways to teach science and math and technology and engineering that are better than other ways, and ... we're finding those best practices around the world," said Stan Lockhart, a member of the board and husband of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. "Our goal is to find a way to help our teachers implement them in the classroom."

DiCaro said it's uncertain when the board will introduce the new techniques in Utah schools. This year, the board will focus on math.

Miss America Mallory Hytes Hagan attended the press event Friday to promote STEM education. She said she wished she had known as a student about the opportunities available in STEM fields. She was scheduled to later attend a STEM event with students at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City.

Prosperity 2020, a business-led initiative to improve education in Utah, along with USTAR, a state program to help university research fuel jobs, paid Hagan's appearance fee, said Justin Berry, USTAR marketing manager. Utah EPSCoR, a federally-funded program to strengthen research and education in science and engineering, paid for her hotel and travel, said Rita Teutonico state EPSCoR director. —

Named to the board

Gov. Gary Herbert has appointed 10 members of the 11-member board that will run the state's new STEM Action Center.

Bert VanderHeiden • Vice president of Aerospace Structures, ATK

Blair Carruth • Assistant commissioner for Academic Affairs, Utah System of Higher Education

Brad Rencher • Senior vice president and general manager, Adobe

Christine Kearl • Deputy for education, Office of the Governor

Gene Levinzon • Managing director, Goldman Sachs

Mark Openshaw • State Board of Education

Martell Menlove • State Superintendent

Robert Brems • President of Utah College of Applied Technology

Stan Lockhart • Government affairs manager, IM Flash Technologies

Spencer P. Eccles • Executive director, Governor's Office of Economic Development