Robotics team, thumbs up

Maupin, Oregon - Over $100,000 of investment has recently been put to use at South Wasco County School District to increase access to engineering, computer science, and advanced manufacturing courses. The funds are from a CTE Revitalization grant awarded to Columbia Gorge Education Service District (ESD), and managed by the Columbia Gorge STEM Hub, in direct partnership South Wasco County and Hood River County School District. CTE stands for Career and Technical Education

From this grant, existing computer science courses will be updated, engineering courses will be added, and practices will be adjusted to improve the equity and sustainability of existing programs. The project also focuses on providing students with hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in middle school, so that they are more inclined to enroll in those courses in high school. In all, these efforts prepare students for job opportunities in high tech and manufacturing fields which have continued to strengthen in the Columbia Gorge region.

As Superintendent Ryan Wraught sums it up, “South Wasco County School District is very excited at the opportunities this funding will bring to our students.” In addition to the lead partners, supporting organizations include Columbia Gorge Community College, the Gorge Technology Alliance, Mid Columbia Development District, and East Cascade Works. 

This collaboration around STEM and STEM is just one of the many ways that Columbia Gorge ESD works with SWCSD to support the district and its students. ESDs often operate behind the scenes from the general public, providing specialized regional services to school districts. In South Wasco County, those services include:

  • Supporting the School District with technology services, including internet connectivity.

  • Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education services, including speech-language therapy and occupational therapy for children ages 0 to 5.

  • School Safety and Prevention Leadership, helping the local school district to assess possible risks and do emergency preparedness planning.

  • Regional Educator Network to support recruitment and retention of teachers.

  • Mentorship of new teachers, to help them be successful in their new role and continue teaching.

  • Regional STEM Hub across the five county region, focusing on career connected learning and STEM literacy from preschool through high school.

  • Regional Early Learning and Parenting Hub, to support access to childcare, kindergarten readiness, and parent education.

More information about Columbia Gorge ESD can be found at

Grace Jackson of South Wasco County High School works on the construction of her team’s robot. VEX Robotics uses a standardized platform that allows for a level playing field across schools, while also encouraging ingenuity and unique solutions. 

Cover photo: Grace Jackson, Max Hoaglin, and Marcos Chavez of South Wasco County High School show off their robot at a recent tournament.