New foundation seeks business donations

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A new education foundation in El Paso County is asking the business community to step up and put their money where their mouth is.

The Neumann Education Foundation wants to put iPads in the hands of every elementary school student in El Paso County. The foundation estimates that cost will be $3.3 million for the first year, and $2.7 million every year for the next five years. After that, the cost will be $1.9 million a year for maintenance and education.

The foundation is the brainchild of Neumann Systems Group CEO Dave Neumann, who struggles to find qualified high-tech workers. He decided to start in elementary school, to get kids interested in technology and physics through games available on the iPad.

Neumann’s already funded a pilot project at Bear Creek Elementary in District 38, and plans to expand it to Bates Elementary in District 11 this year. But he can’t place iPads in the hands of all 60,000 school kids by himself.

“This is where we think the business community should stand up and help,” he said. “This directly impacts what businesses do – what they need – well-qualified workers.”

Businesses in Colorado Springs have long said that qualified workers are hard to find, Neumann said. And while these kids won’t be entering the workforce for years, it’s necessary to start early to get them interested.

“This is definitely in their best interest,” he said. “So we’re hoping to get most of the foundation privately funded. We don’t want state or federal grants – because those come and go. We want businesses to invest in their own future.”

There are about 12 million apps available for children on the iPad, and many of them are education. While kids might think they’re playing video games – they’re actually learning.

“It’s amazing to see how interested they are,” said Rob Fredell, one of the directors of the new foundation. “They are intent, they are focused. And it allows the teachers to actually teach in small groups.”

The project is still in its infancy, but Neumann believes that the time is ripe to add the iPad to the classroom. And doing it early, he says, is the appropriate time.

“Middle school – that’s too late,” he said. “We want to get them engaged early, while their brains are still forming.”

Read more about the Neumann Education Foundation in Friday’s edition of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.