Local school’s new STEAM lab shapes future makers

Cedar Point Elementary is crafting engineers early with their very first Thinkabit Lab.

Cedar Point Elementary School
Photo courtesy of Cedar Point Elementary School

Advancing math and sciences just got a lot more interesting at Cedar Point Elementary School as Virginia Tech, in partnership with Qualcomm Technology, opened its second Thinkabit lab on the East Coast in Prince William County.

Thinkabit labs offer educators and students a chance to experience engineering and technical (STEM or STEAM) education firsthand, working with Virginia-licensed teachers inspired by the Qualcomm Thinkabit labs. Mark Marinoble, the principal of Cedar Point Elementary and a current doctoral student at VT, was asked to experience a day in Virginia Tech’s Falls Church Thinkabit lab alongside some of his classmates. This alone was enough for Marinoble to ask for a partnership with Virginia Tech and Qualcomm in opening a STEAM lab at his school.

Photo courtesy of Cedar Point Elementary

“I was moved by the one-day experience. You walk through the engineering process, walk through the initial factor, go back, resolve and try again,” says Marinoble.

After a little over a year of success at the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center, the first East Coast Thinkabit location, the program expanded by the opening Cedar Point Elementary School lab on Oct. 19.

At the lab, students get a day of firsthand experience in engineering, coding and 21st century problem-solving and collaboration techniques. First, kids enter The World of Work room where they are introduced to careers in the STEAM field. Next, they move onto the hands-on experience of working with electrical circuits using the basics of C++ coding from Arduino open source software. They take that knowledge and apply it to a project where they light and blink an L.E.D. light using a microprocessor, breadboard and resistor. Along with this, students also learn how to code on servo motors. Students apply all that they have learned into the engineering design process and create a Robocraft that incorporates a servomotor. They end the day with presentations of what each group created.

“Not only is the lab teaching kids how to maneuver through the engineering process, it is also setting them up for future job opportunities within the STEAM field,” says Marinoble.

Cedar Point Elementary is working on creating a program to bring others schools into the lab. Marinoble hopes to start these visits in January to expand the lab to other students. There is no cost for other schools to visit the lab.