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St. Vrain Valley Schools to Benefit from Quantum Investment

Tens of millions of dollars from state and federal funding to build an ecosystem of quantum technology in Colorado will give students direct access to state-of-the-art labs and experts in the field.

Shutterstock/Bartlomiej K. Wroblewski
(TNS) — St. Vrain Valley is celebrating the recent award of federal money to Colorado as the state develops a quantum technology hub, with the school district serving as a leader in the effort to build a quantum workforce pipeline.

"It's a really amazing effort that is going to translate into an incredible opportunity for our students and give St. Vrain the ability to lead in really important ways," Superintendent Don Haddad said. "Students are going to have direct access to some multi-million dollar quantum labs and experts in the field."

The Denver Post reported last week that Colorado is closer to becoming the center of the nation's quantum technology universe with the award of $40.5 million in federal money, which will leverage $77 million in state commitments and ultimately could mean roughly $1 billion more in federal dollars for the region.

The Economic Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the award of the money to Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, named in 2023 as one of two regional hubs for advancing and commercializing quantum technology. An additional $10 million will come from New Mexico.

The field, expected to galvanize the development of artificial intelligence, is predicted to generate trillions of dollars in value. The Colorado-based Elevate Quantum consortium submitted the application for the designation as a hub.

The state's investment includes $44 million in refundable tax credits to help finance a shared research facility and $30 million for a program to provide greater access to capital for small and medium-size companies. Another $3 million was earmarked by the Colorado Economic Development Commission for federally designated tech hubs.

The University of Colorado Boulder in June also was awarded nearly $20 million from the National Science Foundation to construct a quantum lab on campus. The National Quantum Nanofab will be designed to take quantum discoveries and find ways to manufacture new technologies and devices.

St. Vrain Valley is one of four K-12 consortium members, along with the Cherry Creek, East Grand and Clear Creek school districts. The Boulder Chamber is another of the consortium's 120 members, along with the University of Colorado Boulder and Front Range Community College.

The education institution members are joined by some of the world's largest quantum companies, research universities, and federal laboratories such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Joe McBreen, St. Vrain Valley's assistant superintendent of innovation, said the district's involvement includes integrating quantum computing into the STEM curriculum, supporting strategic planning with Elevate Quantum and developing quantum learning materials for grades six through 12. The plan is to makes those materials available nationwide.

St. Vrain Valley also plans to host an annual Elevate Quantum event at the district's Innovation Center to foster collaboration among stakeholders and develop quantum curriculum.

McBreen, who is a member of Elevate Quantum's workforce collaborative board, said the district will have the opportunity to play a crucial role in workforce development through internships, apprenticeships, project teamwork, mentorships, classroom speakers and company site visits.

"Education is a high priority in this initiative," he said. "Attracting people to the profession is the key to long term sustainability and viability."

He noted the industry will need not only highly educated scientists, but also people in "quantum adjacent" jobs, including electricians, HVAC technicians, welders and all the other positions needed to run a business.

"It takes an entire team for new industries and new companies to develop," he said. "It's a huge growth opportunity."

While the Boulder Valley School District isn't a consortium member, district officials have said they also see the potential for the quantum tech hub designation to increase opportunities for students.

The district wants to give students an opportunity to learn the skills that will be needed in the quantum industry by offering an advanced manufacturing pathway, officials said. Boulder High also has a computer science class that provides an introduction to quantum computing and what's needed to work on the computer science side of the industry.

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

©2024 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.