Spaceport America tax helping create future engineers

POSTED: 07:05 PM MST Jan 14, 2014 
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

Creating future engineers in fields ranging from biomedical to aerospace and everything in between is the goal of programs funded by the Spaceport America gross receipts tax.

Dona Ana County voters approved the tax in 2007. 

The Las Cruces Public School District receives about $800,000 a year from the tax.

District officials have put the money towards funding advanced technological programs.

At Arrowhead Park Early College High School, for example, students are learning critical thinking skills by creating advanced engineering projects.

A group of students built and engineered a machine that sorts marbles into different containers based on their color.

"It's incredible. I did not even think that I could do that," said 10th-grader Karis Funk.

"It took a long time of trial and error to finally get it working. When we did I felt proud," 10th-grader Diego Torres told ABC-7.

It's just one of the many hands-on projects students throughout the county are working on, all with the help of the hundreds of thousands of dollars brought in by the tax.

"Without this funding, we wouldn't be allowed to put opportunities in front of kids. Certainly based on the gross receipts tax, it's allowed us to do a lot for our kids," said Ricky Williams, director of secondary instruction for Las Cruces Public Schools.

The money goes toward programs in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM programs.

"STEM jobs are growing faster than non-STEM jobs. They have less likelihood of being unemployed, that they pay 3 times better. There's economic impact with STEM," said LCPS secondary instruction specialist Bobbi Eichhorst.

"We amputated a Barbie leg off and had to manipulate it on a computer program and actually see when they printed it out if it was going to fit on the Barbie itself," said Breeze Duran, a 10th-grade student.

Students said they're learning important skills they take home today and will use in their future careers.

"When we finish doing a project here I think about it at home and try to do my own project," Torres said.

"I like it because I'm actually interested in being a mechanical engineer when I grow up," Duran said.