The Virginia Tech Roanoke Center will celebrate the opening of their new Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab Friday.

The lab, designed for sixth graders, immerses students in a hands-on learning environment that emphasizes STEM-related careers, creativity, and basic programming.

It’s the third of its’ kind in the country, and organizers say it could help change the lives of thousands of children across Southwest Virginia.

“Roanoke, as you know, there’s a lot of students in this area that don’t have the opportunities that some of the other kids may have in terms of having experiences like this,” said Don Pizzullo, Qualcomm Thinkabit lab manager.

“We really hope to reach out and have some of those kids who wouldn’t normally get this experience, get this experience.”

The lab has been open for about two weeks, and more than 200 students have come through its’ doors.

It’s open to sixth graders, but plans are being made to expand it to other grades.

The official grand opening is April 26 at 3 p.m. It will feature an open house, ceremony, and a hands-on Thinkabit experience.