After nearly three years of planning and construction, North Carolina-based nonprofit shift_ed converted a school bus into a Mobile Innovation Lab for middle school students interested in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM).
“In the world of education and workforce development, we hear a lot about a ‘skills gap’ or ‘talent gap’ for jobs in our community,” said Amanda Rosemann, Chief Impact Officer of shift_ed. “The data shows, our students don’t have a talent gap. We have an exposure gap.”
The Lab offers students a unique solution for accelerating their potential and broadening their exposure to careers in the tech sector.
Founded in 2017, shift_ed transforms communities through diverse educational and workforce pathways. Originally offering in-person educational sessions for Guilford County middle schoolers in partnership with Forge Greensboro, shift_ed realized that some families had trouble accessing the downtown Greensboro facility. Recognizing this challenge, the shift_ed team proposed a mobile solution that would reach families wherever they may be. After nearly three years of planning and construction, shift_ed transformed a school bus into a mobile makerspace, stocked with STEAM equipment.
shift_ed initially piloted the Mobile Innovation Lab over the summer with D-UP Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves at-risk children in High Point’s Washington Street Historic District. The Lab is made possible thanks to a generous grant from Thomas Built Buses, who donated the vehicle, and Carolina Thomas in Greensboro, NC, who retrofitted the bus for their needs.
Thanks to the success of the pilot, beginning in fall 2023, the Lab will visit Guilford County middle schools with customized curriculum. Forge Greensboro has designed an 8-week makers’ series of experiences that complement the North Carolina Standard Course of Study requirements for middle school students. shift_ed will coordinate the classes with GCS middle schools, and the bus will visit each school once a week over the course of 8 weeks.
“Sharing the Mobile Innovation Lab with the community is a dream come true,” said shift_ed President and CEO Wendy Poteat. “For our students to envision themselves working in a career, they first need to see it and try it. With this tool, middle schoolers will get real-life experience with jobs they may not have known even existed.”