Volkswagen bets on science

By Author: Carolyn Briggs, Date: Jan 27, 2017

It seems our country is currently locked in a pretty intense debate about the value and validation of scientific fact. Climate change and the (non-existent) dangers of vaccinations are just two hot issues with wide agreement from the scientific community but nothing close to a consensus when it comes to national opinion.

With all of this distrust in science itself, you have to wonder what kids are growing up thinking about the value of truth and research. After all, we’re allowed to just reject science if it conflicts with our worldview, right?

But don’t worry, this isn’t a political article. We’re here to talk about one car company that just offered one million dollars to support children interested in research, science, and the discovery of truth.

Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations has partnered with the State of Tennessee to set up a grant program for Hamilton County middle and high school students.

The one million dollar grant will allow schools and students to create the science lab of their dreams; they’ll have access to manufacturing equipment, 3D printers, robotics, microcomputers, and renewable energy kits. I’ll be honest, this sounds a lot engaging than anything I did in high school science.

There will be a minimum of 15 labs created with the grant, and the process will be competitive. After explaining exactly what they’ll need to build their lab, and what they hope to learn there, schools must identify a team of teachers with both the time and the background knowledge to help students make the most of this lab. The principal of the school will get involved as well – they must demonstrate that they are personally committed to the project, and agree to engage in professional learning for themselves.

Schools must also commit to raise a minimum of $5,000 annually to update lab equipment. Frankly I think all schools should do this. I was in high school in 2005 and we were still watching movies on LaserDisc.

While it may be a little ironic that a company that was outed by academic research is behind this program, it might be part of their corporate healing process.

“At Volkswagen Chattanooga, hands-on learning is a crucial part of our educational programs and we are very pleased to partner with the State of Tennessee to bring the opportunity for laboratory-based science exploration to engage the minds of students here in Hamilton County,” said Christian Koch, President and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga.

A quick Google search reveled countless papers on how important it is to motivate young children the right way in order to pursue any kind of learning. With science and other STEM fields, kids can be scared off unless high level concepts are presented in the right way. They need to be both accessible and entertaining.

Volkswagen and the state of Tennessee are hoping these labs will motivate more students toward pursuing science after high school.

It’s good for the state, but it’s also good for Volkswagen. Between developing electric vehicles, autonomous tech, and whatever the hot new buzzword will be tomorrow, car companies have more researchers and scientists on staff than ever before.

Inspiring kids to pursue science, and creating a whole generation of future employees? Solid move, Volkswagen. You done good.

Carolyn Briggs

I grew up on the road. As a child, my family took regular trips from Wisconsin to both coasts. That's how I've seen most of this country — through the window of a car. Years later, I still feel that excitement when I toss my bags in the trunk and get behind the wheel. That's how seeing something new always begins. I've scaled mountains, dived with sharks, and stepped to the very edge of the Grand Canyon, all because I spent hours in a car. This site combines my passion for the road with my actual talent — communication and journalism. In college I rose to the position of managing editor for The Badger Herald, the largest independent student newspaper in the country at the time. I spent a year after graduating in social media marketing before moving off the grid to explore the wild beauty of West Virginia.