Two federal agencies and three technology companies are offering Vermont teachers and students a multimillion dollar opportunity to use top-line software, work with engineering experts, and try their hands at improving the energy efficiency of aircraft, the Burlington Free Press reports. On July 16, Vermont became the first state to sign on to the Real World Design Challenge, an initiative to entice more students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The challenge has been developed cooperatively by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, Parametric Technology Corp., Hewlett-Packard Corp., and Flomerics Inc. The private software companies will donate software to any school that chooses to participate. Each trained teacher would have access to nearly $1 million worth of software to use to teach basic skills and for the competition. There is no limit on the number of schools that can sign up. The federal agencies will provide mentors linked via computer to participating schools. The motivation for giving away millions of dollars in software and professionals’ time is simple, said Bill Valdez, director of work force development for teachers and students at the U.S. Department of Energy: "We don’t have enough U.S. students involved in engineering and science to support industry. This competition is designed to bring engineering into high schools and middle schools in a way that excites students."

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