A group of preschoolers got to spend their Friday morning playing with stuffed bird toys and learning their calls. The activity was part of opening day at The STEM Labs, an educational center in Mayfaire
“We have programs for students in preschool through 12th grade, and everything in between, which is unusual to find,” Tina Catalone, The STEM Labs’ co-founder, said Friday afternoon.
The facility contains a large activity room as well as specialty rooms for robotics and coding, chemistry and biology, computer work and individual tutoring. There is equipment that allows young people the opportunity to explore all aspects of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.
Catalone said that the content of each session is geared toward the age of participants. The robotics lab, for instance, provides very basic color coding experiences for young children, who program tracks for tiny spheroid, Bluetooth-enabled robots to follow. The robotics challenge level rises depending on the age of students: hi
gh schoolers are able to design, build and program complex Lego robots that must be capable of sophisticated tasks.
“STEM education fosters a healthy curiosity of the unknown and provides the tools and techniques necessary to create innovative solutions,” Catalone said in an earlier prepared statement.
As they play chess, peer through microscopes, learn how the human body is put together or create objects with a 3D printer, participants also will gain skills that will serve them well in their future careers, Catalone said.
“They learn about leadership and how to contribute as a team player,” she explained. “They learn about emotional intelligence and time management.”
Catalone, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, has built a career in research, especially at the university level. She is on the faculty team of a new grant program based at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s MARBIONC center that is participating in a $250 million federal project to support the development of new biopharmaceuticals. Her husband, Brad, vice president and co-founder of The STEM Labs, has a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology.
“We have a full staff of tutors and a number of educators – we’re very selective – in the STEM professions, who have master’s and Ph.D. degrees," Tina Catalone said. “These educators can relate well to children.”
The STEM Labs, 820 Town Center Drive, provides after-school programs, summer camps, tutoring and advising, celebration events such as birthday parties, and parents’ night out programs. For high school students, there are focused-topic workshops to help them begin the transition to college. A leadership academy is designed for middle school and high school students.