Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened its first AWS Skills Center in Seattle in 2021 to provide a space where anyone could learn about the cloud for free. Since opening its doors to the public, the 8,000 square-foot learning center has helped more than 25,000 people get access to free skills training and education. Inside the center, guests can explore interactive exhibits and get free training in cloud computing.

People from all backgrounds and of all ages visit the center to learn, including kids exploring the exhibits with their parents, community members taking courses to learn more about cloud technology, and future engineers building a foundation of cloud skills. The center is an important part of AWS’s commitment to provide 29 million people with free cloud skills training by 2025, and a second AWS Skills Center launched at Amazon's new second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, late last year.

We met with Maria Petrova, site leader of AWS Skills Center Seattle for a full tour of the facility. Here's some of the coolest tech we found inside.

A headshot of  image of Maria Petrova inside the Skills Center.
Maria Petrova, site leader of AWS Skills Center Seattle.

The first thing you see upon entering the AWS Skills Center is the Cloud Discovery Space. This area features interactive exhibits that show how the cloud impacts real-world experiences in areas like smart home technology, robotics, and even space exploration.

Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle
Photo by Lucas Jackson

Petrova shared that guests of all ages and backgrounds come to the center to engage with the exhibits. She said it’s particularly exciting to see high school students learn about unexpected career opportunities like working with the cloud in the professional sports and video game industries. Petrova was instrumental in starting a field trip program to bring local high school students to AWS Skills Centers.

Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle
Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle
Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle

One of the most popular exhibits is a large, interactive globe situated in the middle of the space that displays over 600 datasets, including real-time weather patterns, planets, and air travel from around the world.

An image of a tech exhibit inside the AWS Skills Center Seattle
Photo by Lucas Jackson

Petrova shared that one of her favorite activities when she brings her kids to the center is using the globe to show them the flight from Seattle to Bulgaria, her home country.

An image of a large globe with small green flecks on it.
Petrova points to the globe where green dots represent flights around the world.
Photo by Lucas Jackson

The AWS DeepRacer exhibit is another crowd favorite. The setup looks like a standard car-racing game, but it’s actually a cool opportunity to get started using machine learning by training your own virtual race car. First, you take a lap to train the model, then you test the model by racing the virtual car around the track.

Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle
Photo by Lucas Jackson

Petrova explained that in addition to the virtual race cars, one-eighteenth scale AWS DeepRacer cars are available on Amazon for anyone who wants to compete in the in-person events hosted by the AWS DeepRacer team. Everyone from students to machine learning enthusiasts and engineers come from around the world train their AWS DeepRacer cars to navigate courses and meet at racing events in real life. One of the biggest races was at a Las Vegas hotel during re:Invent, a learning conference for the global cloud computing community hosted by AWS.

An image of a tech exhibit inside the AWS Skills Center Seattle
Photo by Lucas Jackson

In another exhibit, a robotic arm shows visitors how robots use cloud technology to interpret commands and perform tasks, like picking up packages and products in Amazon fulfillment centers. During our visit, we told the arm which mini Amazon box we wanted it to pick up and watched as it carefully picked the chosen box.

Images inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle
Photo by Lucas Jackson

The center’s tech exhibits wouldn’t be complete without Alexa. The smart home exhibit gives visitors a glimpse at how Echo and other smart devices interact to make homes more accessible. We asked Alexa to turn on the stove and start the faucet in the mock kitchen display.

An image of the AWS Skills Center Alexa exhibit. There is a mock kitchen with Alexa-enabled devices in it.

In the Alexa-enabled dollhouse exhibit, we saw how Alexa can share daily reports and turn lights on and off. You can also interact with the display to see how preset routines automatically get the day started or help you wind down at night.

An image of a small house replica behind glass. Each room is lit up with a different color light.
Photo by Lucas Jackson

Classrooms behind the Cloud Discovery Space offer engaging learning experiences for students from around the world. AWS instructors lead the training sessions to help students learn fundamental cloud skills. While we were there, a group from the Prison Scholar Fund, which provides skills training and education to formerly incarcerated individuals, was taking a course. Earlier in the year, another group of students traveled from Japan to take courses at the AWS Skills Center in person.

An image of the classroom inside the AWS Skills Center in Seattle. There are rows of tables with chairs seating at them and a wall that says "Skills Center: Learn and be curious" with the AWS logo
Photo by Lucas Jackson

The free courses are also available virtually. Petrova shared that online courses helped a student in South Africa get necessary training to keep his job. His employer required a specific AWS Cloud training and other courses were too expensive. Using the online courses, he took the training from the Skills Center at no cost to him.

A woman types on the keyboard of a laptop computer while sitting on a sofa.
Photo by Brickl, McKenzie

AWS instructors have even taken their teaching skills outside of the center to lead cloud certification preparation courses at Mary’s Place, a family shelter located in one of Amazon’s Seattle campus buildings.

Interior view at the new Mary's Place shelter in The Regrade neighborhood of Seattle.
A row of computers at the Mary’s Place shelter on Amazon’s campus in Seattle.

Before we left, Petrova shared a story about a senior couple that came in to check out the exhibits. The wife ended up enrolling in some courses. Now, she finally knows how her phone stores all the photos she takes. Petrova emphasized that while the trainings are an excellent boost for a career in cloud computing, the center and its courses really are for anyone with an interest in the cloud and how it works.

AWS cloud-computing skills programs.

Check out the AWS Skills Center Seattle website to get information on in-person and virtual training opportunities, as well as visiting hours and location information.