Amazon Web Services’ newest Think Big Space in Virginia opened Thursday at JL Simpson Middle School in Leesburg.
The AWS Think Big Space is an educational lab for students in the school and across the county that builds on the division’s existing computer programming that was first integrated in 2017.
IT Division Supervisor Nicholas Grzeda will lead the programming and use of the new 2,100 square foot space. He said the lab will provide opportunities for students to “engage with a variety of technologies and improve their computational thinking skills.” He also said it will provide opportunities for professional development and give area businesses the chance to connect with the school division through the Community Connections, CTE and Computer Science teams at events held throughout the space. throughout the year.
Grzeda said he was looking forward to getting started.
“I look forward to having teachers here every day. The students left. They came in and looked around. They are hungry to be here,” Grzeda said.
He said the space will always be open to students no matter what happens inside.
“If a student needs to come in and use a 3D printer for a class, I’ll let them in. It’ll always be open, that’s what makes it unique,” he said.
He said he looks forward to hosting guest speakers and developing partnerships with companies to provide learning experiences and work placements.
He said the goal is to form symbiotic relationships with businesses in the region.
“For years, we’ve asked companies for the wrong things, money. I would prefer companies to come and work directly with students,” he said.
Through a partnership with the school division and CodeVa, the space will also serve as an educational center for Northern Virginia teachers, offering free professional development programs.
The AWS Think Big Space provides an integrated environment where everything from furniture, technology, and curriculum work together to encourage hands-on, interactive, project-based learning, according to an Amazon announcement. It offers students the opportunity to be creative and imaginative by giving students access to various AWS technologies, including virtual reality devices, 3D printing, drones, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
AWS Think Big Space adds to the division’s Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline program, which focuses on teaching students problem-solving skills at an early age to prepare them for the job market . The lab achieves this by providing students with a space beyond the classroom “to further cultivate their interests in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) and develop an awareness of different career paths,” the statement said.
At the December 9 grand opening, Amazon Future Engineer, the company’s global computer science education philanthropy program, announced a $1 million donation to CodeVA, a nonprofit organization focused on expanding access to computer education and literacy in Virginia. The funding will be used for the expansion of computer science education, as well as professional development efforts for teachers and professionals in the new lab.
Cornelia Robinson, Global Head of Inclusion and Outreach for AWS, said the company is proud to open its first AWS Think Big Space in Loudoun County.
“We strongly believe in the power of education to unlock human potential. Through this space, along with the various educational programs we support throughout Virginia, we hope to activate students’ spirit of innovation and create the next generation of leaders,” she said.
The AWS Think Big Space at J. Lupton Simpson Middle School is the third Amazon-funded space in Virginia, but the first in Loudoun County. In 2019, Prince William County Public Schools opened the world’s first AWS Think Big Space at River Oaks Elementary, and earlier this year, Arlington County Public Schools opened a space at Wakefield High School . Additionally, through Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon supports approximately 700 schools across Virginia with a high-quality computer science curriculum, robotics clubs, and project-based learning.
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