The Innovation Labs will be a driving force that educates and inspires students, teachers, and our communities through STEM. In 2019 the United Way of Franklin County collaborated with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Novozymes, the Boys & Girls Club and Franklin County Schools to create a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Imagination lab (rebranded Franklinton Innovation Lab). As a result, we initiated Mobile Innovation Camps in the summer of 2021 to support students that had their education interrupted by COVID. The mobile camps served as a hub in the community for learning, leadership skills, and confidence building while at the same time promoting healthy living. This collaborative effort was a huge success and demonstrates what is possible when our communities partner together.
Now, along with our partner, Novozymes, we have an Innovation Coordinator to bring the classroom into the community with an Innovation Mobile Lab. The Innovation Mobile lab will be in constant collaboration with two existing STEM programs at Franklinton and Louisburg High School. The Innovation Coordinator will assist in evaluating and coaching business and community leaders in volunteer opportunities to provide a bridge from experiments and learning to career development and future possibilities. We will build education programs and create programs and pathways aimed at workforce preparedness. This will lead to the next phase of an autonomous Triangle North Innovation Center to be built in Triangle/North counties making it accessible to many underserved rural communities. This allows us to align a student’s career pathway with postsecondary STEM programs. So far, funding has been received for the purchase of the Innovation Mobile Lab, the Coordinator and furnishing and maintenance of the mobile lab. This will be an opportunity to make an impact in North Carolina and set precedence in STEM for years to come.
We will give middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in a Lab to maximize impact and develop practical skills. Students will conduct rigorous, age-appropriate experiments designed to reinforce state and federal core curriculum standards. We will offer the opportunity to perform challenging and age-appropriate experiments using scientific method to solve problems. This will create excitement in students as they work in an authentic laboratory environment and are provided with a clear vision of a great career opportunity. The coordinator will provide students with role models in scientific fields willing to answer questions about their education and careers. The main goal will be to present career alternatives and make earning potential clear, so students continue on the path to higher education and careers in STEM. These efforts will complement the amazing work our teachers do by complementing their instruction
Childhood is a critical period of growth and development and a child’s experiences, behaviors, and health problems can have long-term impacts. Considering risk factors such as poverty, lack of public transportation, food insecurity, incidences of child abuse and neglect that are social determinants of health and education across rural America, this is an opportunity to provide a way out. The benefits for a child are endless. The benefits for the schools are endless, and we as community leaders will succeed if we continue to persevere.
There will be numerous publications, events and press surrounding these programs so that we can celebrate and recognize the importance of partnerships to drive transformational change and have a significant impact on society and believe we have an opportunity to shine and continue to move our children, our community and our lives forward.