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Micron to Spend $10M in Syracuse Schools Over 10 Years

While building a massive semiconductor fabrication facility in Clay, Micron Technology has also promised to invest in local science education through a computer chip camp, a VR curriculum and other educational programs.

(TNS) — About 30 middle school students from about 40 miles outside of Boise, Idaho, took a trip to Boise State University last summer to learn about computer chips and what they do.

During the trip, which was free to the kids and paid for by Micron Technology, the students learned about semiconductors — the tiny chips that make smartphone, military systems and modern appliances work.

“We are a rural school district,” said high school science teacher Crystal Hatt, “so a lot of kids got their first introduction to this type of technology. It sparked their interest in science and technology, and for some in pursuing a career in this field.”

Hatt said students discovered chips made by companies like Micron can be found in more than just phones. They’re in all sorts of machines, including the vehicles they ride in and the agricultural equipment used in their community.

“It was a great experience,” Hatt said. “The kids came away with a lot of wonderment and awe, and learned a lot.”

Micron is pledging to do more in Central New York than bring thousands of jobs to a new semiconductor megafab (fabrication facility) in Clay. It’s also promising to bring exposure and excitement about science into classrooms. It’s pledged to spend $10 million in Syracuse-area schools over the next decade.

Last week, Micron made its first down payment, pledging $40,000 to Liverpool schools for a computer chip camp in April. Micron also is funding a chip camp this summer for North Syracuse middle school students, and more camps are coming. North Syracuse’s camp will take place in June.

At the same time, Micron officials say they are working with Liverpool schools to design a virtual reality curriculum, a first for Micron.

Students will wear special goggles that let them see, up close, how chips are made and how a semiconductor manufacturer operates, Robert Simmons, Micron’s head of social impact and STEM education, told | The Post-Standard. The district will get enough headsets for a classroom, and the students will also have access to a new clean room being built at Onondaga Community College.

Liverpool Schools Superintendent Daniel Henner said the district is excited to pilot Micron’s educational programs.

“We just don’t know how it’s all going to look yet,” he said.

Officials at Micron said they hope to have camps as soon as possible also in North Syracuse and the Syracuse city school districts, and then throughout the region, including in the Rochester and Ithaca areas, Simmons said.

“We plan to offer a full slate of opportunities in the Syracuse area,” Simmons said. “Right now we are meeting with schools and trying to learn about the needs of the community as it relates to STEM education.”

The $10 million investment pales in comparison to the proposed tax breaks Micron is expected to get for investing in Onondaga County.

Micron would also save nearly $284 million under a proposed 49-year property tax deal with Onondaga County in exchange for building a $100 billion computer chip plant in Clay. That includes millions of dollars in savings on school taxes.

That means the maker of computer memory would pay $84.5 million in local property taxes over 49 years on the 1,300-acre site.

Micron has been taking its mission into schools and colleges for years, including at middle schools in and around Boise, Idaho, where Micron is based.

The camps are are typically two to three days. Students get a glimpse of what engineers and scientists do on a daily basis at Micron. They also learn what’s involved in building circuits, launching rockets and programming robots.

Usually the camps accommodate 300 to 400 kids and are for seventh-and eighth-graders. They are also for kids who have interests outside of science, Henner said.

“They don’t necessarily have to fabricate chips,” Henner said. “There are other pathways. Maybe they want to go in robotics or they want to be a musician or a lawyer. This way, they can investigate and Micron is one option.”

Simmons met with Liverpool teachers and administrators on Election Day during its planned staff development day. Henner changed the day’s program at the last minute to include Simmons in the planning day.

Liverpool’s proximity to Micron’s future manufacturing site at White Pine Commerce Park in Clay made it a “good place to start” with Micron programs, Micron officials said. The site is actually in the North Syracuse school district.

Simmons said some of his initial meetings are, in addition to Liverpool and North Syracuse, the Syracuse city schools, East Syracuse Minoa and Oswego BOCES and Oswego superintendents. He plans to meet with kids at Grant Middle School and Martin Luther King school to start; and the Syracuse Academy of Science.

Simmons said Micron is also working with the MOST to design an interactive exhibit for the entire community. It aims to explain how chips are fabricated and how they work. That could be ready by July 2023, he said.

Micron also has a track record of working with students outside of school settings.

Last summer in Atlanta, about 100 students who are part of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Metro Atlanta attended chip camps, learning more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) applications.

“It gave them real-life exposure to STEM activities and told them about STEM-related careers,” said Kwane Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Metro Atlanta. “They learned what goes into building computer chips, and they heard from Micron representatives what it’s like to work there and what career pathways there are there.”

Participants, who were selected based on their interest in STEM, rotated among stations devoted to robotics, how to build computer chips and other technology.

In Liverpool schools to start, Micron also plans to sponsor a bus trip to Manassas, Virginia, another one of the company’s manufacturing sites. The goal is for a group of teachers, administrators, students and community members to see the operations there.

Henner said it’s possible some journalism students also could go, so they could spread the word to others. He’s not sure when that will take place.

“We’re all going to grow this with Micron as we go along,” he said. “This is all value-added for us.”

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