Cedar Point Elementary School, Bristow, Virginia

The Tech Lab at Cedar Point Elementary
By: | January 6, 2019
District Name: Prince William County Schools
District State: Virginia
District Website: pwcs.edu

The resounding success of a field trip to Virginia Tech’s Thinkabit Lab inspired Cedar Point Elementary educators to create their own version.

The Tech Lab at Cedar Point Elementary, which opened in fall 2017, allows Prince William County Schools’ middle school students to collaborate, design and explore technological and coding processes. More than 1,500 students worked in the lab during its first year.

When students visit, they begin their Engineers as Inventors field trip by discussing and brainstorming how to incorporate technology to solve engineering problems. They learn basic C++ coding using circuit boards and breadboards, and experiment with LEDs and servomotors. Students also collaborate in pairs to build their own devices. At the end of a visit, they present their creations and explain the building process, after which they write short reflections on their experiences.

Funding the lab has been a challenge, but community grants and in-kind gifts have bolstered the schools financial backing. “Within our own school, the lab has completely changed the culture from a distribution of knowledge mindset to a growth mindset, guided by questioning and problem-solving,” says Adair Solomon, a STEAM teacher.

When field trips to the lab from other schools are not scheduled, students from all grades at Cedar Point work there.

PD has been provided by Jim Egenrieder, the director of the Virginia Tech Thinkabit Lab. Educators also collaborate regularly to develop engineering challenges that incorporate computer technology.