Global Center for Digital Innovation Opens at Chattanooga State

October 21, 2021 | Betty A. Proctor | Internal Press Release

group in front of global center for digital innovation

The partnership between Chattanooga State Community College, Hamilton County Schools, the STEM School, and the Public Education Foundation came full circle on October 20 as representatives from each entity, including public officials, community members, and invited guests gathered to witness the grand opening of the Global Center for Digital Innovation (GCDI). The completed Global Center for Digital Innovation is where ideation, creation, and fabrication collide with entrepreneurship in the world’s first K-14 teaching and learning fabrication lab. 

“This is a truly magical space,” commented Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State president. Student creators of all ages will imagine, design, and experiment, get their hands dirty, collaborate and grow entrepreneurial, digital fabrication, and advanced manufacturing skills while learning problem solving and soft skills as well. “Their ability to work as a team and to communicate with others will allow students to truly learn without limits,” added Dr. Ashford. “I think it is serendipitous that this ribbon cutting takes place during startup week in Chattanooga as the GCDI will build on the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem already in place.”

Dr. Nakia Towns, Hamilton County Schools (HCS) interim superintendent, noted that the partnership between Chattanooga State and HCS has spurred STEM education in the region fostering the development of STEM opportunities throughout the county for thousands of school students. “We’re really proud to acknowledge that HCS now has the most STEM-designated schools in Tennessee, as well as the most digital fabrication education labs in the country,” stated Dr. Towns.

The GCDI, a 15,000 sq. ft. second floor addition to Chattanooga State’s Center for Engineering, Technology, Arts and Sciences (CETAS) building has been called a “super fab lab” or someplace where students can earn micro-credentials but Dr. Tony Donen, STEM School principal, broke it down quite simply: “It’s a place where if you think it, you can make it.” Donen said he hoped to hear a visitor today, say, “I wish I could have had the opportunity to create them. But that's not the best part. The best part is that our next generation of students will be able to say I did create it in this space.”

GCDI features a clean space lab with 3D printers, laser cutters, computers, and electronics. A second lab workshop will include saws, CNC routers, CNC mills, and other tools to allow students to produce prototypes. There will also be a collaboration and entrepreneurship center for large and small groups to work together on projects to plan and consider marketing concepts.

Noting that GCDI is a beautiful new building outfitted with amazing high-tech tools, Michael Stone, Public Education Foundation (PEF), title, cautioned that there is plenty more under the hood, something much more powerful in function. This innovative space represents a critical shift in how we prepare students for a brighter future and graduates today must be prepared to thrive in a dynamic environment where they may not know everything but must be able to learn it and do almost anything. “Innovative education ensures that generations of students from our region will have unparalleled opportunity to pursue their passion and experience success in life,” stated Dr. Stone.

The Global Center for Digital Innovation is now open for meetings, tours and future entrepreneurs. Call Dr. Tremaine Powell, dean, Chattanooga State Engineering and Information Technologies at (423) 697-4471 or email You may also call Kristin Burrus in the GCDI at (423) 697-4416 or email for more information.