Brett Thrasher is the lab’s teacher/ facilitator and led a tour of the facility, which is comprised of 15 computer stations with two seats at each. Students can work on a variety of disciplines including architecture and home design, computer coding, media arts, electronic circuitry, engineering, computer graphics and music, just to name a few. There is also hands-on learning in robotics and the lab even has a 3D printer.
Thrasher said, “The lab exposes students to things they’ve never seen before and will help prepare them for college. The STEAM lab is for every child. They can all be successful.”The lab was dedicated Jan. 31 to the memory of Danette Tawbush (above), a long-time science teacher at the high school who passed away last year. At the dedication, Blount County Board of Education (BCBOE) Superintendent Rodney Green said, “Danette left a legacy that will always be remembered.” Members of her family were present for the ceremony.
The lab is the work of Green and assistant superintendent Stoney Beavers, who less than a year ago toured a similar lab in Phenix City. Collaborating with Cleveland High principal Chris Lakey and Cleveland Elementary principal Joseph Whited, they began the effort of bringing a similar lab to Blount County by writing grants and searching for other funding.
The lab’s cost was about $150,000, according to Green, which came from several sources including the Tawbush Family Fund, grants from the Alabama Department of Education, local funds, the Blount County Board of Education (BCBOE), the Blount County Education Foundation, federal funding, community partnerships and the Moving Blount County Forward Technology funds. The lab was purchased from Creative Learning Systems, a Colorado company, and uses SmartLab® technology.
Beavers said the lab is the first in a North Alabama school. He said it is the long-term goal of the BCBOE to eventually have one in every school. According to Beavers, these labs will “create a future for our kids they didn’t have before.”
Thrasher said the lab is geared for the middle school grades. For the remainder of this school year only seventh-graders are using it, but at the start of the next school year, the lab will be available for grades 5-8.
Dr. Cynthia McCarty, a member of the Alabama Board of Education, was on hand for the dedication and said, “There are so many positive things going on in the state in terms of education. The governor and the Legislature are very supportive.”