Demo Day kicks-off work on the world’s first Global Center for Digital Innovation
Posted on 11/15/2019
Dr. Johnson holding a sledgehammerHamilton County Schools already features the world’s largest number of Digital Fab Labs but will soon add another first in providing learning environments to prepare graduates for the future.  Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga State Community College, and local dignitaries joined in demolishing a wall to mark the beginning of work on the world’s first Global Center for Innovation on Wednesday, November 14.  Students in kindergarten through twelfth-grade in Hamilton County Schools, as well as first and second-year college students at Chattanooga State, will use the digital fabrication lab.  The college campus will be the home for the new Global Center for Innovation that will be located near the STEM School Chattanooga campus. 

Representatives from Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga State, and the Public Education Foundation (PEF) swung hammers to take down the wall and symbolize the beginning of construction on the new innovation lab.  The Fab Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit organization that emerged from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms Fab Lab program visited Hamilton County in September of this year to announce that Hamilton County Schools has the world’s largest concentration of educational Fab Labs in the world.  The school district has 17 labs in the Foundation’s Fab Lab Network.  The labs include the first in the community located at STEM School Chattanooga and 16 Volkswagen eLabs in other local schools.  Volkswagen and the State of Tennessee provided funding for the VW eLabs.  Plans are for the Global Center for Digital Innovation to be the 18th lab in the community.

“When we think about future, the reality is that we don’t really know what the jobs of tomorrow will be, but I know exposing students to spaces like the Global Center for Digital Innovation will position students to be successful,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent, Hamilton County Schools. “I appreciate the leadership of the Hamilton County Board of Education in supporting these efforts as we work with Dr. Ashford and Chattanooga State to solve issues in our community and better prepare our young people to succeed and our community to grow and prosper.”   

The Global Center for Digital Innovation will be on the second floor of the CETAS building on the college campus and will feature a clean-space lab with 3D printers, laser cutters, computers, and electronics.  A second lab workshop will include saws, CNC routers, CNC mills, and other tools to allow students to produce prototypes.  There will also be a collaboration and entrepreneurship center for large and small groups to work together on projects to plan and consider marketing concepts.

The Global Center for Digital Innovation is where ideation, creation, and fabrication will collide with entrepreneurship in the world’s first K-14 teaching and learning fabrication lab.  The lab will enhance STEM education through digital fabrication that will develop product ideas to answer real-world problems and an agile workforce prepared for jobs of the 21st century.  The labs will foster collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.

“This is really a culmination of what it means to be a part of STEM School Chattanooga,” said Dr. Tony Donen, principal of STEM School Chattanooga. “The school was started in 2012, but the purpose of the school was not just to pull in students to provide amazing learning opportunities but it was about creating opportunities for students throughout our community from kindergarten through second-year at Chattanooga State. We came together to see how we can transform the way we do school, and this lab will allow students to create and innovate new jobs for the future.”

Construction is underway on the new Global Center for Digital Innovation, with completion planned for the fall of 2020.