Volkswagen Chattanooga officials announced on Tuesday the establishment of a $1 million program that will allow all Hamilton County middle and high schools to apply for funds to create a science lab in their school.
Named the Volkswagen eLabs, the program will allow students to gain access to emergent technologies, including automated manufacturing equipment, 3D printers, robotics, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits and other science-related activities.
“Volkswagen has been an incredible partner to the State of Tennessee for almost ten years, and we are grateful for its decision to further invest in Tennessee by creating this new, innovative program that will benefit Hamilton County middle and high school students,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Our state continues to make education a top priority, and when Tennessee companies show their support in helping us make huge strides in education, that means a great deal for the future of our workforce and its success. We thank Volkswagen for its contribution to Hamilton County and continued commitment to Tennessee.”
“Education helps build a superior workforce, which creates jobs for Tennesseans. How successful our state is in the future depends on the readiness of our workforce and aligning our education offerings with the jobs needs of Tennessee industries,” Commissioner Randy Boyd said. “Our department plays a critical role in working with our education partners to make sure they know the needs of the workplace and are better aligned to serve Tennessee. It is incredibly important to develop and support these linkages, and I applaud Volkswagen for helping Team Tennessee build a pipeline of talent for generations to come.”
“At Volkswagen Chattanooga, hands-on learning is a crucial part of our educational programs, and we are very pleased to partner with the State of Tennessee to bring the opportunity for laboratory-based science exploration to engage the minds of students here in Hamilton County,” Volkswagen Chattanooga President and CEO Christian Koch said. “Volkswagen places the highest priority on education at all levels, and we are proud to continue our support for education here in Tennessee.”
The program will be administered in partnership with the Public Education Foundation (PEF), an independent, nonprofit organization that provides training, research and resources to teachers, principals and schools in Hamilton County.
“This partnership provides both our students and our teachers with the chance to experience opportunities that not only make learning more fun, but that also better equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful long-term,” Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.
“We are thrilled that Volkswagen recognizes all of the amazing things happening in our schools, and we know this partnership will mean more of our students can access a world-class innovative education,” said Dr. Kirk Kelly, Hamilton County Department of Education interim superintendent.
Schools will be required to identify a team of teachers committed to investing a significant amount of time to develop the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the laboratory opportunity. A school’s principal must demonstrate a personal commitment to the project, agree to engage in professional learning and provide release time to at least one teacher who will manage the lab.
Each school must also commit to raise a minimum of $5,000 annually in cash contributed materials to ensure that the lab is continually refreshed and materials are replaced.
“Thanks to Volkswagen and the State of Tennessee, Hamilton County students will have the opportunity to engage in authentic problem solving in eLabs that will prepare them to thrive in the 21st century workplace,” PEF President Dan Challener said. “PEF is tremendously excited to join this extraordinary partnership that will benefit so many students.”
Michael Stone, PEF’s Director of Innovative Learning, will help schools equip their Volkswagen eLab, as well as design and lead all the professional learning of the educators in the schools with a lab.