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If I Only Had A Brain-A PCS Brain

High-tech learning space for young people.

Story by Laura Wolstenholme
Photos by Tia Crabtree

A new high-tech learning Lab for young people has just opened in Eagle. PCS EdventuresLab has an eight-foot tall robot, a 3-D printer, a marvelous “PCS Brain,” an ingenious range of building manipulatives, and much more.

Is there a young tinkerer or builder in your household itching to design or construct something new this summer? A new EdventuresLab, designed to delight fledgling inventors, architects, builders, and engineers, has just opened in Eagle, making two EdventureLabs in the Treasure Valley. The other one, in Boise, opened in 2012 to much acclaim.

EdventuresLabs is just one division of PCS Edventures, a company that’s been in the Treasure Valley for 25 years. Discovering PCS Edventures has been like finding a gold nugget in your own back yard. Though the company is publically traded, and its products are used globally, including in the US at over 6000 sites, the company has thrived just outside local consciousness. CEO Robert Grover acknowledges that more people outside of Idaho know of his company than inside.

A teacher’s discontent with the status quo in local schools sparked PCS Edventures creation in 1986. Patrick McShane, discouraged by the lack of robotics and real, hands-on building for curious, technology-bent students, motivated him to open his home garage in Nampa for an after-school program—PCS, or “Patrick’s Computer School.” The program flourished, and with seed money, evolved into the company it is today, PCS Edventures.

A well-developed PCS division is found in its educational products. A look at PCS’s on-line retail catalogue shows dozens of building kits, programs, and systems designed around manipulatives such as LEGO and Fischertechnik. The products are marketed to and used in institutions such as schools, Boys and Girls clubs, and YMCAs across the country.

In the last few years, the company has revived their successful afterschool program, EdventuresLab, as first created by Pat McShane. The pilot program opened in 2012 with 20 students. Now, between the EdventuresLab off ParkCenter in Boise, and the new Eagle EdventuresLab on N. Fisher Parkway, the program has a combined student body of 200 students for the summer, and it’s growing fast.

Meeting weekly during the summer, or after school for 75 minutes, students create, build, and design with the aid of computers, microcontrollers, manufacturing technology, and an assortment of building materials at their fingertips. Robotics, video production, video game development, and programming are all routinely explored.

And incredibly, a 3-D printer is included in the new lab, ready to be used for any project, such as building parts for a new robot, the missing link in a gear train, or a zombie’s head for Halloween’s mechanical monsters.

Grover says, “Robotics as an industry is exploding, it’s a probably one of the fastest growing industries on the planet, with robotics in every field—agriculture, medicine, communications—so a lot of things we teach kids here are literally skills for the future.”

The Lab powerfully merges PCS’s original purpose of giving children creative building opportunities with the company’s cutting-edge educational products. PCS’s latest product? It’s what Grover calls “the PCS Brain,” a specialized microcontroller that children can program to run motors and sensors on their robots. Grover says everyone should have a brain, and he wants the PCS Brain to become a household name.

Grover adds, “The Brain and our organizing software provide the first tablet-based robotics programming environment in the world.”

The new Lab in Eagle has doubled the number of young people enjoying the challenge and thrill of PCS learning. There’s still work to be done, but it seems likely that soon, as many people in Idaho will know about PCS EdventuresLab as those outside of it.

PCS EdventuresLab is for young people 9-17 years old. Visit www.edventureslab.com for more information regarding classes and camps. The new Eagle EdventuresLab is at 94 N. Fisher Park Lane, Suite 110. For information on the company, or for investing information, go to www.edventures.com