Some Hamilton County students could soon see a high tech science lab in their school.

Volkswagen and the state of Tennessee partnered to create a $1 million dollar program. Officials said there's enough for about 15 labs.

Hamilton County middle and high schools will have to apply for that money if they want the new science lab. Principals and teachers Channel 3 spoke with said the payoff could be huge.

"This will make a stronger impact in their lives. Influence will be great," Deidre Edwards, a science teacher at Orchard Knob Middle School said.

Deidre Edwards is passionate about science. That's why she's taught the subject for nearly two decades. 

"I don't prefer kids memorizing facts. I just want them to have a big understanding, so it's just something that they can carry with them to secondary schools and beyond," Edwards said.

This semester, her 8th grade students at Orchard Knob Middle School will be building simple motors for a lab.

"You need things to do that with. You need parts. You need more batteries and wires and magnets and stuff," Edwards said.

Edwards typically uses her own classroom for labs and resources are slim at times.

She hopes her school will be selected to house a new Volkswagen eLab. Company officials said the labs will be state of the art with equipment like 3D printers, robotics, and microcomputers.

"Our workforce of the future, as you can see with these robots here, is very science, technology, engineering, and math based learning," Scott Wilson with VW Chattanooga said.

The idea is to prepare students for stem related careers as early as middle school.

Principal Tiffany Earvin believes it could help bring the concepts they learn in textbooks to life.

"It gives our kids an opportunity. It gives them a chance to work in a design thinking studio. It gives them a chance to use their creativity that we see within them every day," Principal Tiffany Earvin of Orchard Knob Middle School said.

Earvin plans to apply for the funds for her school as soon as possible.

Volkswagen officials said they will start with one school, work out the bugs, and then put the rest of the eLabs in place.

"I believe that if we are targeting these kids toward stem related fields in the 8th grade, then it's the beginning," Edwards said.

The first eLab is expected to be in a school sometime later this year.

The program has some guidelines:

  • 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.