Last week, NOVONIX Anode Materials, a division of NOVONIX Limited, celebrated the opening of the NOVONIX Institute of Advanced Battery Technology with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lookout Valley Middle High School.
As a Hamilton County Schools’ Future Ready Institute, the new institute will provide career-focused learning aimed at equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the EV-battery industry and other STEM innovation fields.
Community leaders attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Daniel Deas, president, NOVONIX Anode Materials; LeeAnn McBryar, principal, Lookout Valley Middle High School; and Tim Kelly, mayor, City of Chattanooga.
The institute at Lookout Valley Middle High will promote STEM-based learning with a highly specialized training curriculum initiated by NOVONIX. Credits earned here can go toward student graduation requirements while also providing field-specific training experience needed to enter the workforce.
Students receive in-lab training, safety tutorials, on-the-job shadowing alongside NOVONIX employees, and a preferred job interview with NOVONIX upon graduating from the institute.
NOVONIX has invested nearly $500,000 to retrofit a former body shop at Lookout Valley Middle High – approximately $300,000 in construction costs and another $200,000 for equipment, Deas explains. The institute features an interactive classroom and lab with advanced tools including a state-of-the-art electronic scanning microscope.
TREND spoke with Deas and McBryar to learn more about their partnership and vision for the institute.
Daniel Deas, president, NOVONIX
TREND: What attracted you to partnering with Lookout Valley Middle High specifically?
Deas: We’re just two miles down the road, so that’s where we started. When we were looking for [schools] to partner with, we decided to start small so we drew a circle around our offices and found Lookout Valley High School. We’ve been community members just since 2019.
TREND: How will this institute help sustain and create a strong workforce for Chattanooga and for NOVONIX?
Deas: The renewable energy industry is advancing so quickly, and Chattanooga is really well positioned to be a hub for that [industry]. Students coming out of this school will have a head start understanding this industry. For NOVONIX specifically, we had to develop the curriculum because what we do is so unique.
After graduation, students get a preferred interview at NOVONIX and can come in prepared with knowledge about what we’re doing. It takes about four to six weeks to train people who come in, because nobody’s ever seen what we’re doing before. Having students come in who are already knowledgeable about what we do will be hugely advantageous for us.
TREND: How will NOVONIX continue to support this program into the future?
Deas: This is just the beginning. We want to ensure we get established at [Lookout Valley] and that this is exactly the place where we want it to be. Then we can start replicating that successful formula around the city.
LeeAnn McBryar, principal, Lookout Valley Middle High School
TREND: How many students will this institute serve? How does a student qualify to enroll in the program?
McBryar: We can have around 350 [students] between our middle school and high school. For us, a Future Ready Institute really is a small learning community. For each grade level, roughly 25 students can be in the Future Ready Institute.
It’s really left up to our students, as they come into their freshman year, to determine whether or not they want to enroll in the institute. While they’re in eighth grade, [students] go through what’s called a “Future Ready carousel” where they get an opportunity to try out different projects for a class. So, that should help them to know if they want to pursue further study in this during the approaching year, as they’re entering high school.
We’re also an open enrollment school, which means that students from other HCDE schools can choose to enroll in our Future Ready Institute. We save a small handful of seats for students from other schools to be able to join us.
TREND: How will this program prepare students to enter the workforce after graduation?
McBryar: We’re looking to get our young people engaged in and excited about working in STEM industries like engineering and technology. It’s not just about building a workforce for NOVONIX – although our students will have the access and opportunity to get to the top of that career path should they so choose – it’s also about getting students excited about finding a career path in general.
To date Hamilton County Schools has partnered with local companies to create Future Ready Institutes in 13 high schools, including the Institute of Aviation at Brainerd High, the Institute of Engineering at East Ridge High, and the Institute of Robotics and Welding at Howard High.
Learn more about another Future Ready Institute here.
Watch a GCEP interview with Daniel Deas of NOVONIX here.