Japho Hardin, center, works with students on troubleshooting the wiring on the taillight for their electric car in the VW eLab at Howard School on Nov. 21, 2017.

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Hamilton County Schools that have a Volkswagen eLab

  • Brainerd High School
  • Brown Middle School
  • Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences
  • Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts
  • Dalewood Middle School
  • East Hamilton Middle/High
  • Hixson High School
  • Hixson Middle School
  • The Howard School
  • Hunter Middle School
  • Normal Park Museum Magnet
  • Ooltewah Middle School
  • Orchard Knob Middle School
  • Red Bank Middle/High School
  • Sale Creek Middle/High
  • Soddy-Daisy Middle School


Teachers from across the region will have the opportunity to get hands-on training using cutting-edge tools at Chattanooga's inaugural Digital Fabrication Institute later this month.

More than 200 educators are expected to attend the institute through a partnership between the Public Education Foundation, Hamilton County Schools, the Hamilton County Education Association and the NEA Foundation.

The initiative is one of three efforts funded by a $150,000 grant from the NEA Foundation.

The four-day event will give participants a chance to engage with and learn how to use 3-D printing, laser engraving/cutting, vinyl cutting, CNC routing, microcomputing, and more. The initiative is a strategic effort by PEF to expand on some of the other programs launched in Chattanooga and Hamilton County in recent years such as the Volkswagen eLabs.

"Chattanooga is quickly becoming identified as a leader in digital fabrication education. The institute allows us to share this innovative work with the country," Public Education Foundation President Dan Challener said in a statement.

Each day of the institute will kick off with keynote speakers who are industry leaders, including Stephanie Espy, author of "STEM Gems: How 44 Women Shine in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and How You Can Too!" and Ross Ingram, founder of Maslo, as well as Harriet Sanford, president of the NEA Foundation, and several other NEA Foundation board members.

Participants also will spend time visiting Volkswagen eLabs and learning from teachers and specialists who already have been working with students in their schools.

In 2017, Volkswagen and the state of Tennessee announced a $1 million effort to provide students with advanced technology and engineering opportunities through the creation of the eLabs.

As of September 2017, eight eLabs were fully operational and another eight were announced in January of this year.

The labs are filled with digital fabrication tools, including automated manufacturing equipment, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits, 3-D printers, robotics and laser cutters and are staffed by Volkswagen eLabs Innovation Teams. They are led by specially trained Hamilton County teachers and an eLab specialist who staffs the lab full time.

"The Volkswagen eLabs give students the unique opportunity to develop the gifts they know they possess and discover untapped talents that can inspire a lifelong love of learning," said Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson in a statement.

The institute plans on capitalizing on the labs, according to a news release.

"The Chattanooga Fabrication Institute will give local teachers an opportunity to lead innovative educators from across the country by sharing best practices as they continue to pioneer work in this field," Public Education Foundation Director of Innovative Learning Michael Stone said in a statement.

Thanks to the grant funding provided by the NEA Foundation, the institute is free for educators.

"The Fabrication Institute provides a unique opportunity for area educators to develop cutting edge skills that will impact teaching and learning in classrooms throughout the region," HCEA President Dan Liner said in a statement. "I'm especially grateful that the NEA Foundation has provided funding for the Institute that otherwise would not be available."

The institute is open to educators from across the United States — at least 10 states and two countries already will be represented. The institute will be held in Chattanooga from June 18 to 21. About 30 spots are still available.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.