TVA gives $5,000 to improve Middle School’s unique Imagine Lab

Amy Tate, left, government relations manager for TVA, presents check to Imagine Lab director Sarah Garrett and Middle School Principal Paul Henry
April 2nd, 2021     City schools

The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with New Albany Light, Gas, & Water, and Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (a TVA retiree organization), recently awarded New Albany Middle School, $5,000 for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education project.

The grant award is a part of $800,000 in competitive STEM grants awarded to nearly 200 schools across TVA’s seven-state service territory.

“We are happy to continue our partnership with TVA to enhance our STEM offerings in our Imagine Lab,” said Paul Henry, Principal of New Albany Middle School. “All of our students are fortunate to be able to rotate through the Imagine Lab and be exposed tdo exciting STEM projects and many career opportunities.”

The Imagine Lab is essentially unique in Mississippi. Although one other similar lab exists in the Gulf Coast area, it serves more than 50 schools and does not provide the real learning environment the New Albany lab does.

The Middle School does have 520 students so they rotate through the lab so each can benefit.

Students are able to learn about health care technology, laser engraving, personal computing and programming language, 3-D printing, robotics, drone piloting, CNC routing, sublimation printing and vinyl cutting. Students may purchase “blank” materials to personalize using the technologies if they wish.

The grant money will be used to add 3-D printers specifically.

Across the valley, educators submitted projects large and small, to further their STEM education initiatives in the classroom. The project New Albany Middle School submitted was titled “Imagine the Possibilities of 3D Printing.” Through funding from the TVA Mini-Grant, the school will be able to provide additional technology opportunities in the area of Advanced Manufacturing, as well as provide general education teachers the opportunities to use technology to make lessons come alive.

The competitive grant program provided teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000 and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving as well as pandemic related projects. Schools who receive grant funding must receive their power from a TVA distributor.

The Imagine Lab began with $180,000 worth of technology. This is TVA’s third contribution and Toyota and the CREATE Foundation each contributed $25,000.

Upcoming plans include activities for those beyond the school student body.

A robotics camp is planned in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club, a “Girls and STEM” series is on the schedule as is “Cooking with Code.”

When pandemic restrictions are eased, some workshops may be scheduled for adults to use and learn in the lab.

The next major project involved virtual reality. The school has the headsets already and is working to prepare the video students can use. Principal Henry noted that students will soon be able to view various vocations from the perspective of someone actually performing the tasks.

“Despite the new challenges Valley teachers faced in 2020, they are still focused on providing the best STEM education possible and have adjusted to new ways of teaching,” said Community Engagement Senior Program Manager Rachel Crickmar. “I am proud of the partnerships we have built with these amazing educators across the Tennessee Valley over the past few years and are pleased to be able to provide some support through this program. Through the grants awarded this year, over 72,000 students will be directly impacted across the Valley.”

A full list of the grant recipients can be found at

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

TVA representative Tate examines a student laser engraving project as lab director Sarah Garrett, left, and Melanie Shannon, right, watch. Shannon is special grants coordinator, responsible for obtaining much of the lab funding.

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