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Inspire Idaho Nominated for National Excellence Award Ahead of Sandpoint Launch

September 17, 2019

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Sept. 16, 2019 — The free app development initiative Inspire Idaho is a finalist in the 2019 Awards of Excellence, a national recognition from the University Economic Development Association. The honor comes just ahead of the program’s 13th launch site in Sandpoint Sept. 19.

The University of Idaho will represent Inspire Idaho at the University Economic Development Association conference in Reno, Nevada at the end of September. Inspire Idaho is a finalist in the talent excellence category.

Inspire Idaho started in 2018 to bring free, future-ready skills development to communities across the state. U of I Coeur d’Alene and Innovation Collective created the program as an introduction to coding. Participants of all ages join local teams, work alongside a mentor and develop their own app through Apple’s Swift programming language.

“There’s a general fascination with making devices do things, and that’s coding, which can be intimidating,” said Charles Buck, associate vice president and center executive officer at U of I Coeur d’Alene. “We hear people say ‘Oh, I know apps. I use apps, and now I get to make one?’ Along the way, they learn how to code plus a lot about design, analysis and monetizing their app. So it’s a lot more textured than just coding, and that gets people excited.”

The program currently has more than 200 participants on 12 teams from Rexburg to Bonners Ferry. The Sandpoint program is supported by the East Bonner County Library which will not only host the Inspire Idaho meetings but will also act as the lending library for the program’s MacBooks.

“In a rural area, there are not as many options to access technology and skills development,” said Amanda Ruff, emerging technology coordinator for the East Bonner County Library District. “We’re trying to create that space, and the Inspire curriculum is a good fit. We don’t have to create the course ourselves, but we can be the place to help people take that next step.”

Four library employees are learning the curriculum so they can assist as mentors for new Inspire Idaho participants.

“We have a lot of local folks without Wi-Fi and without computers, so there’s a lot of interest here,” said Jim Hutten, community mentor for Inspire Idaho in Sandpoint. “The library is a big deal and a great learning environment for us so this is an awesome opportunity for people to build skills and improve their job potential.”

The Inspire Idaho Sandpoint team will begin with almost 20 learners. The curriculum is projected to take a year to complete with a functioning app as the final product.

More information on Inspire Idaho is available at

Media Contact

Katie Marshall
Marketing and Communications Manager, U of I Coeur d’Alene

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at