PEF Announces Expanded Access to VW eLabs
Posted on 05/08/2023
PEF Announces Expanded Access to VW eLabsChattanooga, TN (May 8, 2023) – Public Education Foundation (PEF) announced funding for 34 more VW eLabs. Half of the labs will be added in public schools in Chattanooga and the surrounding region while the other half will be developed around Herndon, Virginia. The new labs will include a focus on environmental remediation efforts. The expansion will be the largest ever to the multi-year initiative that has grown from a single lab at STEM School Chattanooga in 2016, to what is now the largest network of registered Fab Labs in the world.

“We are delighted to be able to provide access for thousands more students with the opportunity to learn and innovate in these labs,” said Dr. Dan Challener, President of Public Education Foundation. “The continued partnership with Hamilton County Schools and Volkswagen allows us to expand support for the growing network of extraordinary teachers and principals who play a pivotal role in preparing students for college and career success.”

In 2017, PEF received a $1m seed investment from Volkswagen Group of America and the State of Tennessee to develop the VW eLab initiative in partnership with Hamilton County Schools. Over the past six years, leaders from Volkswagen, PEF, and HCS have worked together to grow the investment. The expansion announced today is possible thanks to a $5.3m distribution from a cy pres fund created by the resolution of certain civil litigation matters. The funds will not only underwrite the installation of 34 labs but will also support teachers and administrators as they create innovative learning opportunities that leverage the technology in the labs to empower students to thrive in the modern workforce. The learning model focuses on equipping students with the technical competencies and environmental awareness that are in high demand across the state along with STEM essential skills like critical thinking, resourcefulness, and agility that are critical to success in today’s job market.

“We are grateful to PEF and their partners for collaborating with us to bring the innovative opportunity of eLabs to more Hamilton County schools,” said HCS Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson. “We have seen our students empowered to put their learning into action, growing content knowledge along with valuable skills and habits to help them thrive in school and beyond. The continued growth of the VW eLab network helps our students grow as solutions-oriented, community-involved learners. We are excited to continue to increase this impact by expanding eLabs to more schools and more students.”

“Building the workforce of tomorrow starts with investing boldly in our students, which is exactly what Volkswagen continues to do through its partnership with Hamilton County Schools and PEF,” said Hamilton County Mayor, Weston Wamp. “Expanding the footprint of VW eLabs in our public school system will give more students opportunities to develop valuable workforce skills and explore their own creativity with the latest digital tools.”

VW eLabs are digital fabrication labs that provide access to high-tech equipment in a highly innovative learning environment. Students use the technology to seamlessly transition from “bits,” digital information and designs, to “its,” physical objects created by, or interacting with digital technologies. The technology allows students as young as kindergarten to create real solutions to real problems. This empowers teachers to facilitate learning that is modeled after the real-life skills that are in high demand across the region, state, and country.

“Our region has a rich history of collaborative innovation, and these labs bring that spirit to students as early as kindergarten,” said Michael Stone, Vice President of Innovative Learning at PEF. “The teachers and technology in VW eLabs give students opportunities to put their learning into action and this expansion represents a continuation of our region growing as a hub of innovation!”