WSU, Alaska Airlines partner to inspire STEM education

By Kathy Barnard, University Communications

Imagine-tomorrowPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University and hometown airline, Alaska Airlines, are joining forces to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for high school youth with the newly named Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow Competition.

Created by WSU in 2008 and now housed in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, Imagine Tomorrow challenges 9th-12th grade students to develop enterprising solutions for renewable energy. Student teams from across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana select one of four topics (food, energy and water; the built environment; biofuels; and aerospace) and research, create and provide solutions.

Projects are judged by a panel of experts at an annual event on the WSU Pullman campus. Winning teams receive up to $70,000 in prizes.

“Alaska Airlines is focused on being the leader in the airline industry for environmental stewardship, and we are also passionate about education and youth services as keys to improving our communities,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of communications and external relations. “Inspiring our youth to develop new methods of taking care of our planet is at the heart of the Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow Competition. We are so pleased to be joining our good friends at WSU on this project.”

“WSU’s Imagine Tomorrow program brings together some of the brightest young minds in our region to develop new, creative solutions in alternative energies,” said John Gardner, vice president for University Advancement at WSU. “Alaska Airlines’ investment in Imagine Tomorrow is truly an investment in a brighter future for our state, nation and world, and we thank them.”

Candis Claiborn, dean of the Voiland College, said the partnership “will bring expanded exposure to those high school students around the region who have an interest in STEM education and related fields. We’re excited for the opportunity to share all that the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture and WSU have to offer with this diverse group of students as they consider the next step in their educational endeavors.”

With Alaska Airlines’ sponsorship, the university expects to expand the program to serve more youth, expand the number of program tracts for participants, encourage more students to attend college and  increase the program’s visibility and impact.

In conjunction with the Imagine Tomorrow Competition sponsorship, Alaska Airlines and WSU will collaborate on an Alaska Airlines Day on the WSU Pullman campus. This will be an exclusive recruitment day for Alaska Airlines as well as an opportunity for executive leadership to discuss mutual challenges and opportunities. A showcase highlighting joint research projects and the increased collaboration will occur and Alaska will have signage opportunities on the WSU campus.

WSU and Alaska Airlines have a deep history of working together toward sustainability. Next year, Alaska will fly a demonstration flight using 1,000 gallons of alternative biofuel being produced by the WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and its many partners.

In 2011, Alaska Airlines flew 75 passenger flights using biofuel as part of a strategic initiative called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest – a coalition of WSU, Boeing, Alaska Airlines, airports in Seattle, Portland and Spokane as well as Climate Solutions and dozens of other regional stakeholders – to explore the feasibility, challenges and opportunities for creating an aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest. Alaska has set an ambitious goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020 (on a per passenger mile basis). Learn more about these initiatives at

For details on the Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow Competition, visit


Washington State University: Kathy Barnard, University Communications, 509-335-8055,
Alaska Airlines: Media Relations, 206-392-5101,