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Imagination becomes reality during STEAM Lab Open House

by Curtis Hayes, Director of Communications

What started as an imaginative idea last spring became reality on Tuesday, December 17th when Franklinton Middle School’s STEAM Lab officially opened its door, stations and opportunities to learn during an Open House Celebration for the community.

The new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Lab was made possible through the generous support and dedication of the United Way of Franklin County, Novozymes, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Franklin County Schools. However, many other community partners also volunteered their support along the way, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Louisburg College, Majestic Kitchen & Bath, McCorkle Sign Company and many others. Together, they turned a dim, storage area into a vibrant and lively space dedicated to learning through hands-on experiences.

During the recent Open House celebration, Joe Jones, chair the United Way of Franklin County, said the new Franklinton Community Imagination Lab, which is the official name of the STEAM Lab, was a perfect fit for the United Way mission.

“The mission is to unite people and resources to build a stronger community focused on improving the quality of life for the people of Franklin County,” Jones said. “As you look around, you can see that we have succeeded. We want to make a big impact!”

The Open House was abuzz with excitement, as student ambassadors greeted visitors and demonstrated the STEAM stations with the assistance of adult volunteers.

“Tonight represents what this is really about,” said Dr. Rhonda Schuhler, superintendent of Franklin County Schools. “We have students engaged. We have teachers and staff excited about using the equipment that we have already received.”

One theme – partnerships and growth – resonated throughout the evening.

 “This space has been completely transformed because of the vision and commitment of our partners and the community,” Schuhler added. “We have a great space as a starting point, and we want to continue to build those partnerships and help our students see what the possibilities are for careers in their futures.”

Andrea Wright, executive director of the United Way of Franklin County, was the driving force behind the idea.

“We have just had an outpouring of support that starts here, and we’re calling this phase one,” Wright said. “Our partners will help move toward phase two, and we’ll just keep going toward phases three and four.”

One of the Imagination Lab’s biggest supporters is Novozymes, North America. The company made a donation of $50,000 during the Open House.

“This is about discovery and about learning,” said Brian Brazeau, Head of North America and VP Bioenergy of Novozymes, NA. “I think about the types of advantages that the kids who come into this STEAM Lab will learn. The curiosity that will be built in them. The ideas that will come from that...”

Brazeau said society is on the verge of the next industrial revolution, which will be catalyzed by Biology. Yet, he said it’s also important to remember the value of art in the algorithms that will define the future.

“It’s not STEM, it’s STEAM,” he said. “And art and science are very closely linked. There are a lot more design principles and artistic principles that are coming into the work of scientists and engineers than ever before.”

The Franklinton Community Imagination Lab is open. Schools are encouraged to schedule field trips to the lab and make it part of their students’ ongoing learning experience.

“I’m so thankful to be a part of this community that has a great place for children, families, community members and other schools to come and learn,” said David Averette, principal of Franklinton Middle School.

Five adults standing and holding an oversized check

Left to right: David Averette, Rhonda Schuhler, Brian Brazeau,

Andrea Wright and Joe Jones.


A student and an adult at a STEAM station


A student an an adult at a STEAM station


A student and an adult at a STEAM station


A student and three adults at a STEAM station


Two students at a STEAM station