STEMpower

Spotlight: The PCS EdventuresLab

By: Robert Grover, Co-CEO

PCS Edventures! has a long history of STEM education, going clear back to 1986 when Patrick McShane, a rural Idaho schoolteacher, started an afterschool program in his garage.  Pat wanted to do more hands-on, inquiry-based education with a heavy focus on problem solving, engineering, and creativity.  Wow, what a vision - at the time he was way ahead of his time doing STEAM education before it was even called that.  His garage evolved into a small business that through word of mouth was wildly popular and at any time you could enter the lab and see students working on a variety of subjects ranging from digital art and animation to uber geekish printed circuit board design and production.  The lab environment that Pat constructed was so successful that he had 15 year old students winning national electronics competitions. I remember clearly how this student's project, his name was James, was so sophisticated that the judging board felt compelled to quiz the young man personally to confirm he had really designed the winning project.  The stories and success of the orginal PCS after-school program are legendary in our company, and to this day we maintain ties with many former students.

Enter the PCS EdventuresLab - Pat's vision in the 21st century.  In 2012, I was appointed to the CEO role for PCS Edventures after 20 years of working on business and product development for the company.  When I took over, I implemented a new business plan for the company that incorporated bringing back the original lab concept which I saw as the core of our educational vision. I was fortunate to be an original PCS instructor with Pat McShane starting back in 1988 and saw the remarkable accomplishments being made by students in that environment.  The vision today is to implement a lab network across the United States through partnerships that will make this remarkable experience available to students all over the US, and eventually, the world.  This network of labs and experiential learners will all be tied together through a digital "glue" that is our digital learning platform now in an R&D phase.

Presently, we have two EdventuresLab facilities operating in Boise and Eagle, Idaho, rebuilding the same remarkable student experience seen originally in 1986.  In addition to the business of the EdventuresLab itself, these in-house private education programs provide PCS Edventures! with a unique environment for conducting rich R&D around advanced, "experiential," STEAM education.  Out of these labs have come our latest iterations of PCS Robotics software and hardware literally designed with the input of hundreds of PCS students.  The labs have also been the source of our explorations into new and highly relevant topics such as 3D prnting, advanced robotics, aerospace engineering, and principles of flight using drones, 3D game development in Unity, and a number of other exciting areas.   It's also been the genesis and inspiration for our new curriculum delivery concept called LABCards, a granular approach to providing rich STEM experiences with minimal educator facilitation.  This summer we used these labs for testing out digital student portfolios and saw hundreds of students creating online portfolios, a big part of what we see as the future of authentic assessment, and a key element in our digital "glue."   Finally, over the past two years we have had visitors from all over the world marvel at these labs as they come see them in action - companies and educators from Taiwan, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, India, and more have all visited and left with a vision of education for the 21st century that has inspired and motivated these people to actively promote change in their countries.

In conclusion, check out our EdventuresLab blog to see what is going on in these labs on a weekly basis.  It's a magical environment that provides our company with inspiration, motivation, real-world testing, and innovative ideas on a daily basis.  I dream of the day when this experience is delivered to students in labs around the country, into classrooms, and even into student's backyards as they tap into the digital service that we envision bringing STEAM students from all over the world together.