IALR unveils new 'Inspiration Lab'

45-foot-long bus designed to help IALR bring STEM to more students

DANVILLE – The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research is now more mobile thanks to a 45-foot-long bus.

It is the institute's Inspiration Lab and is designed to be a mobile version of much of the science, technology, engineering, and math opportunities at the institute.

"The first iteration of the bus will have three different types of 3-D printing. The idea is to expose young people to additive manufacturing," said IALR advanced programs director Julie Brown. 

"So 3-D printing is a tool, but additive manufacturing is really the process and how many people believe most of our food, parts for cars, and (other) things will be engineered in the future," Brown said.

Tuesday morning, Gov. Terry McAuliffe helped cut the ribbon for the lab.

"This is what I talk about every single day when I talk about 'build that new Virginia economy,'" McAuliffe emphasized.

After cutting the ribbon, McAuliffe tried out some of the STEM opportunities on the bus.

He said the bus will help fill thousands of STEM-related jobs in Virginia that could result in millions of dollars in tax revenue.

"Last year, I had about 170,000 jobs open; technician, good-paying jobs that that sat open for nearly a month," McAuliffe said. "That cost our families about a billion dollars in wages. From the state perspective, about $54 million in lost state income that we would have had."

The institute expects the bus to last for at least a decade and has designed it to be able to change based on the needs over the next 10 years.

Its first stop will be at Chatham Middle School Friday to give Pittsylvania County teachers an opportunity to learn about what the lab has to offer.

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