Flagstaff declared America’s first STEM community
By Sara Graper
The Flagstaff City Council unanimously declared Flagstaff a STEM city on Oct. 16, the first STEM city in the U.S. Flagstaff was recognized due to a collective attempt to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines within the community.
In 2011, a plan was formulated out of Flagstaff Forty, a group of Flagstaff business leaders, to become a STEM City. Over the past year, they have been working on collaboration efforts within the community and, in the past few months, have seen the project come to life.
David Engelthaler, an epidemiologist at TGen, a local STEM nonprofit organization, is considered the driving force behind the project.
“There hasn’t been another city in the country that has stepped up and said our whole city can do this,” Engelthaler said. ”We are going to be a STEM city. We are going to put our businesses and our schools and our government and our local organizations all together to achieve this goal.”
In August, a summit was held at Camp Colton, where the Flagstaff mayor and city council were present, along with STEM business leaders, the super intendant of schools and several charter schools. All signed to commit their time and resources to this project because, as Engelthaler said, “[They] have the capability; therefore, [they] have the responsibility.”
A sign declaring Flagstaff as “America’s First STEM Community” will be placed on the highway leading to the city.
Engelthaler expressed a deep passion for educating and producing STEM literate students. He believes, as a result of Flagstaff becoming a STEM Community, more science and technology related businesses will be attracted to the area and more importantly, it will create a better educational system for Flagstaff.
“We want to be able to say, ‘Haven’t you heard about what’s going on in Flagstaff and how great the schools are?’” Engelthaler said.
Adopting a resolution is only the start.
“The boots are getting on the ground and starting to actually put some things in motion to really show what kind of STEM community we are,” Engelthaler said.
This week, the same community leaders will meet to develop an action plan at a Flagstaff STEM consortium. Their goals will be focused on how to bring resources and funding into Flagstaff to support the STEM institutions of the community.
Many community members seem motivated about this progressive project, including Engelthaler.
“What’s exciting about this is that we’re not trying to start anything really new,” Engelthaler said. ”What we’re really trying to do, over the last couple of months, is hold a mirror up to Flagstaff and say, ‘This is who you are,’ now let’s just kind of pull some of these pieces together, be more coordinated and really amplify our effect.”