Thursday, April 17, 2014 · 11:28 a.m.
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(From left to right) Andy Jackson, Red Bank High School; Bob West, Marion County High School; and Katie Hetrick, Battle Academy, received Kindle Fire devices from Amazon this week. (Photo: Contributed)

This week, leaders with Amazon surprised 24 STEM Teaching Fellows from five Tennessee counties with new Kindle Fire devices to help instruction in their classrooms.

These STEM Teaching Fellows are a group of educators from across the region who are participating in a yearlong training program focused on expanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction, officials said. 

STEM Teaching Fellows is one the programs organized by the new Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub, a regional support center for STEM partnerships, resources and educator training housed within PEF.

This isn't the first time Amazon leaders have made such a donation. 

Last MarchAmazon leaders from the Bradley County fulfillment center donated 50 touch-screen Kindles to students at Bachman Academy in Cleveland. 

And science, technology, engineering and math skills are becoming more important than ever, especially in Chattanooga—a city that is on the cutting edge of technology in a lot of ways. 

The city is the first and only city in the United States where its entire 600-square-mile service area has access to 1-gigabit-per-second Internet speeds, according to EPB

This week, two high-profile speakers, Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, and Thomas Friedman, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist, spoke, in part, about the importance of technology and how citizens can utilize it to advance their careers, communities and the world. 

And at the city's Spirit of Innovation Awards Tuesday, Chattanooga leaders announced the second Gig Tank competition, which is designed to inspire next-generation Internet apps and businesses.

Local educators said that Amazon's donation will help better prepare area students for joining the workforce.

And having enough skilled and educated workers is another timely topic in Chattanooga. Area business leaders have an ongoing discussion about the need for a skilled workforce. 

“This program aims to increase students’ interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math by giving educators new skills and resources to use in their classrooms,” Keri Randolph, director of learning at the STEM Innovation Hub, said in a prepared statement. “We want to see teachers consistently using technology and hands-on learning to show students how the concepts they learn in the classroom translate to the real world.”

Tracey Carisch, managing director of the STEM Innovation Hub, said that Amazon, which now has distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties, is a committed community partner in the region's STEM initiative. 

“They provide resources and financial supports, as well as a look at the career opportunities awaiting our students in the future," she said in a prepared statement. 

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