Skip to main content

West Valley City Journal

Neil Armstrong Academy awarded STEM Platinum designation

May 30, 2022 06:16PM ● By Liz Craker

By Liz Craker | [email protected]

Neil Armstrong Academy, a public elementary school located at 5194 West Highbury Parkway in West Valley, was awarded with a STEM Platinum Designation April 22.

Representatives from the Utah STEM Action Center awarded the academy during a surprise announcement assembly. "We had an emergency fire drill to get the students outside and had a dance party after the announcement. It was a good time,” principal John Paul Sorensen said.

The teachers had a surprise reveal of the award in a previous faculty meeting complete with celebratory confetti, he added.

This designation means the school received the highest possible marks in their implementation of STEM principles, including curriculum, leadership, professional learning, student engagement, community partnerships and strategic alliances.

As a STEM school, the academy is devoted to the integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as the platform for instruction in the Utah Core Standards. 

Sorensen explained that each STEM school applies for or reapplies for STEM designation every five years. “It’s a big deal and hard to do. There are not very many platinum schools. Of a rubric scoring of 111 points, we scored 106,” he said.

“The designation is really meaningful for our school as a vast majority are private schools or charter schools. This shows a public school in the center of West Valley providing access of the highest quality education to our community,” he said.

Sorensen attributes the school’s success to the teachers. “They are constantly trying to push the boundaries and engage the students in real world applications,” he said.

One of the school’s projects was to build a Lego man to travel in a high-altitude weather balloon.  The balloon took 45 minutes to reach 110,000 feet, which is at the edge of outer space, he explained. “Students from kindergarten through sixth grade participated in various aspects of the project, everything from reviewing materials to changing software to designing a battery pack to recharge the unit in flight,” he said.

Sorensen shared that the school also has a Lego woman named Little Amelia Armstrong that the students are sending around the earth via postal mail. “She was just mailed from England to Scotland,” he said. “We anticipate we will get her back in two years.”

The school staff uses social media to find people in different countries to mail Amelia. The people take pictures and send the school an email while the students research to areas she has been to learn about them. “We even have a picture of her at The White House on the president’s Christmas tree,” he said.

“These kinds of projects really get kids excited about learning,” Sorensen added. “It creates a culture of learning, and it is fabulous work.”

The school has a weekly broadcast, Armstrong Broadcasting Company (ABC) as well as an Instagram page for Little Amelia Armstrong, a school YouTube channel, and a school Instagram account where the students and staff share their projects and learning. See