For the students of today, a role in the workforce of tomorrow might have very little to do with a desk and a cubicle – instead, for some of them, a normal day could involve the use of a 3D printer, a laser cutter, a drone, or even a robot. Who better to help students explore these new skills as early as possible than a K-12 school? Franklin Road Academy presented its own brand of future-minded thinking in 2017 when it launched the Innovation Lab, a 2,000-square-foot space that offers students hands-on learning experiences using the tools and technologies they might encounter in a modern STEM workplace, while also allowing for creativity and problem-solving. Today, in addition to their regular coursework, you’ll find Franklin Road Academy (FRA) students using the Innovation Lab for robotics and Science Olympiad competitions.
Franklin Road Academy Innovation Lab: Learning STEM By Doing
But the impact of the Innovation Lab extends far beyond FRA’s own student community. Thanks to a partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), FRA has hosted and collaborated with hundreds of MNPS students and educators through the Summer Innovation Institute. In the summer of 2019, the Institute welcomed over 100 students and eight teachers from four MNPS middle schools for summer camps held in the Innovation Lab. Summer 2019 marked the third summer of this partnership, meaning hundreds of middle school students across MNPS have now had the opportunity to craft, solve, and create using tools like 3D scanners and a virtual reality computer.
Perhaps most impressively, the Summer Innovation Institute experience has sparked community-wide good: in the summers of 2018 and 2019, student innovators used their lab to create products for the Nashville-based nonprofit Shower The People, which provides mobile shower and bathroom facilities to homeless individuals. Through this partnership, students are able not only to explore their own potential, but also to explore how these skills may be a force for good in their communities for years to come.
Thanks to Franklin Road Academy’s Innovation Lab and the Summer Innovation Institute, students across Nashville can dive deeper into science and technology, practice collaboration and problem-solving, and discover new passions. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented FRA from hosting a 2020 Summer Innovation Institute, the Innovation Lab stands prepared to host students as soon as it is safe to do so, and for many years to come. The Scarlett Family Foundation is proud to support this program.