A race car and a tiny house are just a few of several new projects students will get to build at the Umatilla School District’s STEM Academy after-school program this year, all because the district is receiving more funding for the program.

Last year, when the Umatilla School District was awarded its first installment of money from the approximately $2 million 21st Century Learning Center grant to support the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program, it received less than the requested amount. The district had applied for about $497,000 for the first year but was only awarded $473,000.

This year, however, district officials learned the district will receive the entire requested amount, plus an additional $60,000. STEM Academy coordinator Josh Ego said the extra money will allow the district to continue to offer the same services for students and add a couple of new projects organizers hope will sustain the program in the future when the district’s grant funds have run out.

He said organizers hope to have at least two of three new projects up and running by November.

The first project, which was originally planned for last year, is for high school students, and possibly some in lower grades, to rebuild a retired police car the district bought at a police auction and turn it into a race car.

“That is something we have been really excited about,” he said.

Ego said organizers are currently working out logistics and are searching for a person who will partner with the district to offer a type of automotive mechanics class through the after-school program. He said that is the toughest aspect of the after-school program.

“Especially with this program, it isn’t the funds that are limiting us,” he said. “We have the funds. It is finding people in the community to run those classes that is the hard part.”

Ego said he is optimistic organizers will find a mechanic or a community member who will volunteer to work with students to revamp, paint and advise them on what it takes to fix up a car so the district can offer the class by November.

The second project, Ego said, is for students to build a small, basic house, no larger than 1,000 square feet. Umatilla Superintendent Heidi Sipe said small houses have grown in popularity the last several years, and the dwelling built by students will most likely be set on wheels so it can be maneuvered to a specific location.

Ego said the goal, again, is to get community members involved who will lend their expertise on subjects such as home building, plumbing, electricity and more so high school students can learn skills they will be able to use in the future.

“We can have different age groups doing different things,” he said. “Students could build the furniture. Art students could make ceramic vases for the house. The sky really is the limit on what is possible.”

Ego said the program’s success is based on community participation. He said he also hopes to partner with agencies to donate materials to build the house.

After the house is built, students would work with area agencies to sell it, and that money would help sustain at least a portion of STEM Academy program costs.

A third project, which Ego said probably won’t begin until the spring, is for the students to build a green house at the elementary school. He said elementary students could eventually grow plants in the facility, which high school students would then sell to also provide funding to help sustain that class for STEM Academy.

Developing sustainable programs was a key component of getting the grant. Ego said, for the first three years of the grant, the district will receive 100 percent of the funding. In the fourth year, the district will receive about 75 percent of those funds and 50 percent the fifth year.

“You still have to offer the same services in years four and five,” he said. “We have to find ways to sustain the same level of services.”

Ego said organizers have a number of ideas in mind to help sustain the program, but they are still narrowing them down. As for now, he said he is focusing on tailoring the classes being offered to the curriculum.

“Everything will have some changes, but I’m excited,” he said. “We are developing the curriculum on a micro-scale. We will develop each individual class a little bit more.”

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