Grants help middle school set up technology lab

Some of the students who will benefit from the lab stand with, from left, TVA representative Derek McGill, Middle School Principal Paul Henry and New Albany Light, Gas and Water Manager Bill Mattox
February 20th, 2020     Schools

New Albany school officials have been working on establishing state-of-the-art technology labs at the elementary and high school, but the middle school had been left out until recently.

Now, a series of grants will provide some of the latest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational equipment for those students as well. “This is the missing piece,” Lecia Stubblefield, director of professional and support services, said.

Wednesday, Tennessee Valley Authority district customer service representative Derek McGill presented a $5,000 check to middle school principal Paul Henry to help pay for the needed technology. Grants were offered to all TVA-supplied cities and New Albany applied and won, he said.

A representative of Wal-Mart was to present a $2,000 check later from their community grant program to help with what will be called The Imagine Lab.

“This has been kind of a pipe dream,” Henry said. “We had a lot of good ideas and wanted to bring learning to them (the students).”

Henry believes the lab will help relate subjects to life experiences for the students. “This will give them a taste of what’s out there before they get to high school,” he said, adding that can make their career choices more practical.

“At this point you can do whatever you want to,” he said.

A goal is not only to prepare students for good technology jobs, but for them to stay here and be productive.

The Imagine Lab will focus on three main areas and the grants the school have received are used to purchase equipment in those areas: healthcare, logistics (coding, which is problem-solving) and technology. That includes programmable robots, biomedical equipment, 3-D printers and other devices.

Money has come from, or is coming from, the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund, TVA, the CREATE Foundation, the Dean Provence Endowment for Education, Wal-Mart and others.

“The kids are preparing for jobs that do not exist today,” Henry said.

When complete, the Imagine Lab will have stations for robotics, healthcare, 3-D printing, computing, programming and, eventually, will have CNC computerized milling, laser engraving, a sublimation printer and other equipment.

A slight holdup is that some of the equipment is coming from China and the outbreak of the coronavirus is delaying shipping, so it’s not clear when the lab will be ready.

The lab also has drones and the school formed a drone club that started with about 70 members. One student, sixth-grader Kaden House, gave a drone demonstration and Henry noted that “You can make a lot of money flying drones. They are in high demand.”

“If they need it we’re going to make sure they have it,” he said.

He is confident the tools will be put to good use and will be effective. “These kids are a lot smarter than you think they are,” he said.

He reiterated the Imagine Lab would not be possible without the strong outside support. “You have to have great partners, and we have,” he said.

Another presentation is expected once the lab is set up.

Principal Paul Henry talks about the planned lab,

Sixth-grader Kaden House demonstrates drone flying.

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