Boeing Company, Family Pledge $30M for Museum of Flight Education

The Boeing Company and its founding family have pledged $30 million to turn the 50-year-old Museum of Flight into a STEM-education powerhouse, with an explicit focus on women and minorities, who are underrepresented in technology fields.

The donations—$15 million each from the aerospace giant itself and June Boeing, widow of William E. Boeing Jr., who died in January at 92—are the latest in a series of promising steps taken in Washington state recently to address the insufficient local supply of people qualified to work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and to do so in a way that could improve diversity in the tech industry.

With this new financial support, the Museum of Flight, a world-class aerospace museum at Boeing Field, five miles south of downtown Seattle, will create the Boeing Academy for STEM Learning. Some of the Boeing family’s contribution will also be used for other museum purposes, such as artifact preservation.

Through the academy, the Museum of Flight aims to double the number of students of all ages served by its in-depth programs through 2019 to 5,000. The academy has an explicit goal for half of those students to be “young women, students of color or economically disadvantaged.”

While more than 162,000 students were served by the museum’s educational initiatives, the Boeing Academy programs will be much more than a field trip to the museum. The academy is leveraging the museum’s extensive collection of air and space artifacts to create in-depth STEM curriculum that could yield high school or college credit.

It also wants to become the go-to resource for STEM educators.

Other existing programs, such as the Washington Aerospace Scholars and Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program, will also expand as a result of the contributions.

This donation is one of several efforts to improve the STEM education pipeline and tech industry’s diversity in the state. Others include the University of Washington’s progress in increasing the percentage of women earning undergraduate computer science degrees and among its tenure-track engineering faculty; state funding to train more K-12 computer science teachers; the growth of the Ada Developers Academy; and individual company efforts, such as startup Glowforge’s diversity recruiting bounty.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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