According to the U.S. Board of Education, the country’s STEM education ranks 8th out of 37 participating countries. Richardson Independent School District, located in North Texas and home to over 25 Fortune 500 companies, is acutely aware of this workforce gap and wanted to create an environment to encourage STEM-capable students. The introduction of STEM pathways in high school is typically too late, as most students develop their attitude and aptitude towards math, science, and engineering during their early years. To bridge the gap, Richardson ISD envisioned a new STEM Center to provide exposure to potential STEM career paths, foster curiosity, and equip students to become knowledgeable innovators. To create a center that stimulates STEM interest in students starting in kindergarten, all the way through high school, Perkins&Will hosted inclusive visioning sessions with key stakeholders. The goal was to determine the qualifications students would need to be successful in future careers, as well as the space and technology needed to enable learning, and the tools needed for STEM-focused teachers. In response to these sessions and regional industry demands, the pathways identified included: aviation, biotechnology, cyber security, global arts communications, engineering/robotics, and STEM management. To encourage flexibility and adaptability to future changes, the space accommodates multiple uses: messy and clean labs, an immersion studio, areas for collaboration, and presenting/lecturing/training spaces. The facility layout was finalized with direct feedback from the very educators who utilize it. Today, the center has partnerships with local public and private universities and other industry partners that enhance the curriculum, provide training, student internships, scholarship opportunities, and a pathway to a master’s degree for teachers. Join us to learn how a small investment and 8,000 square feet of underutilized space was converted into an innovative STEM Exploration Center for Richardson ISD.
1. Identify how a small financial investment can reap big rewards for the community.
2. Divulge the challenges of integrating cutting edge technology into learning spaces.
3. Discover how building partnerships with businesses can provide education opportunities.
4. Discuss planning concepts that ensure flexibility for future change.
Vandana Nayak, AIA, Regional Practice Leader, Principal, Perkins&Will
Based in Perkins&Will’s Dallas studio, Vandana is the Regional Education Practice Leader and delivers excellence in K-12 and Higher Education architecture and design. Vandana has worked with educational clients for over 20 years and has a unique ability to understand client goals. Given that her clients typically have numerous constituents involved with diverse perspectives, she navigates through the many voices, creates a clear vision, and translates that into a built facility that exceeds expectations.
Sandra Hayes, Assistant Superintendent District Operations, Richardson Independent School District
Sandra has 30 years of experience in education, beginning her tenure as a teacher and coach at the junior high level, then moved to central administration. She held positions in the Curriculum & Instruction, Instructional Technology, and Career & Technical Education departments before being appointed the Assistant Superintendent of Technology. Presently, Sandra is the Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Richardson ISD. Sandra recently completed her Superintendent Certification in a doctoral program at the University of North Texas.