Skip to main content
skip to content Français Search
Start of main content

Creating a big STEAM impact on a small budget

How a small STEAM Center in Katy ISD is offering STEAM curriculum to their students at a low cost to the district

By: Laura Sachtleben, Houston, TX and Jennifer Henrikson, Houston, TX

The future is now!
Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and with it, so are the skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Many of the jobs from only 5 or 10 years ago have been replaced by computers and robots. Jobs today require employees who are collaborative, creative, flexible, and have good communication skills. Our educators are faced with preparing students for this rapidly evolving workforce, and in doing so, have found a highly effective way - through using STEAM curriculum. 

What’s so great about STEAM?
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, or (STEAM) creates opportunities for students to have hands-on experience in solving complex problems. The benefits are clear, but finding a way to create these opportunities for students can be expensive. It can be a challenge for school districts to provide the space and tools for STEAM due to budget restraints.

A solution for school districts of all sizes
Katy Independent School District (ISD) is a fast-growth suburban district in Texas encompassing 181 square miles west of Houston. With 8 high schools and more than 73,000 students, district leadership was overwhelmed with the task of creating STEAM education opportunities for every student in the district. Replicating the potentially expensive spaces and equipment required to provide this curriculum at each campus was not financially feasible. So, Katy ISD decided to provide one, centralized, district-wide facility with all the amenities.

Transcript of the video follows
skip transcript
<table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>So many of us are confined with our thinking about what's possible. This proves that it's possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Sarah Martin:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Oftentimes we get in our little box, and we tend to teach students the way that we were taught, and we can't do that any longer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Libby Perego:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>I would never have imagined something quite so amazing as this building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Sarah Martin:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>You don't see a space like this in any other school district. This is more of an incubator space that you would see in a work force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Mike Outlaw:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>The journey started fifteen years ago, when this robotics team was founded here at KISD.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>These guys were going off winning competition after competition. They really were ambassadors. I'm we need to invest in them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Elizabeth Waters:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>We decided to continue coming back to those board meetings, and tell them, &quot;Look, this is what your students are doing. It is in everybody's best interest for us to continue giving this opportunity to students,” and one of the ways we thought we could make that happen was through a facility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Mike Outlaw:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Superintendent Frailey and the board took it on, and said, &quot;Yes, we can make that happen, and we will make it happen for us.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Jennifer Henrikson:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>When we first met with the superintendent, we knew it was going to be a center for STEAM. However, we didn't really know how much larger his idea was for this facility. Then we went about this series of charrettes, which are onsite work sessions, where the architects are with the owners, where we collaborate, and share our ideas, and tweak them as we move.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>They kept probing to make certain that they knew what I was talking about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Jennifer Henrikson:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>We explored activities, what did they want to do in this space, who was this going to serve. They wanted it to serve every grade level, and to be flexible enough for activities that we're not even sure that they don't exist today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Laura Sachtleben:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Basically we were designing for things that had not even been imagined yet, so that no matter what they dream up it could happen here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Jennifer Henrikson:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Then once the design was at a state, we present it to the board of trustees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>They really were about inventiveness, creativity, and when they first showed me their earlier interpretations it blew my mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Jennifer Henrikson:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>How do you capture a space that really evokes students to be able to imagine, and just let their creative juices flow?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Jennifer Henrikson:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>We knew that they needed a high-bay space in order to do large-scale experimentation for robotics, but we also wanted to have some smaller spaces adjacent to it, where they could tinker, and really just kind of work out the details, come out, and perform, and through the entire facility you can see what's happening in all the bays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Laura Sachtleben:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Part of that is to inspire so that students working on one project can learn from other students that are working nearby.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>They really captured the essence of what I was talking about, and really went above and beyond what I'd even imagined.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Laura Sachtleben:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>The facility opened in March of 2015, and within the first two months of opening they had over 2000 students come through this facility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Sarah Martin:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>When you walk in, you feel you're walking into a very special place. It doesn't look like a classroom. It doesn't feel like a classroom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Steve Adams:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Whether they're a first grader or whether they're a senior, they walk in here, and there's this look in their eyes, their eyes get kind of big, and they're like, &quot;Wow, this is cool.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Steve Adams:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>All sorts of things go on during the day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Sarah Martin:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Kindergartners come in over, working on Lego robotics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Steve Adams:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>We'll have first graders here, and they'll be all around the building doing science activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Sarah Martin:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>You'll have fifth graders coming over, and researching engineers and different types.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Steve Adams:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>The eighth graders might be here building rockets. The seniors might be here for a forensics field trip. We've had this whole place turned into an art gallery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>We have a big football fever in Texas, and one Friday night this place was packed for Science Movie Night, while the game's going on next door. We've had banquets. We had a sonic boom tube created. It was infinite possibilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Mike Outlaw:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Creativity grows ideas, and ideas grow from collaboration, and multiple inputs, and this facility allows that to happen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Elizabeth Waters:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Being in a very formal environment like this, it translates exactly into the workforce. My experience at NASA parallels what they're getting here. It gives everybody, all of these students, a competitive edge when it comes to hiring, and in college, too, in knowing how to work on teams, and knowing how to think critically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Libby Perego:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Instead of just being told how a circuit works, I'm able to plug in all the wires, and crimp, and do all those things, and it really helps connect it in my mind, and see how it works in real life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Laura Sachtleben:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>Students will walk into this facility, maybe not knowing exactly what they want to do with their future, and they may not know that when they walk out, but my hope is that they get exposed to things that they wouldn't get exposed to elsewhere, and maybe walk out with a little more focus, and a little more inspiration on what they're going to do in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr><tr><td width="156" valign="top"><p>Alton Frailey:</p> </td> <td valign="top"><p>It is my hope and expectation that because of this building some student will imagine, innovate, and create something, and become a Nobel peace prize winner with something that will change the world. I really believe that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> </tr></tbody></table>

The Robert R. Shaw Center for STEAM provides space for design, collaboration, construction, testing, and exhibiting student projects of all types. At only 24,000 sf, and a modest budget of $4.9 million, this small facility has an impact far greater than facilities ten times its size within the district. The STEAM Center is open to every student and teacher within the district, and frequently hosts community events open to the public.

The Shaw Center’s simple and highly flexible design has a central high-bay space to accommodate exhibits, demonstrations, and projects. Eight project bays are located around the perimeter, which provide the space for students to design and build their projects. A shared shop provides students the ability to use large, high-end equipment that are typically not accessible to students. Writable walls and technology are infused within every inch of the facility to enable students to move through the design/create/test/and exhibit phases of a project seamlessly, and all under one roof.

Within the first three months of the Shaw Center’s grand opening, the facility hosted over 2,000 students for various events. The highly flexible facility is a design/build space for the district robotics teams, and has accommodated large field trips, summer camps, science movie nights, and staff development events. The new facility’s success has been heralded by all. The Shaw Center also gives community members and businesses a venue to get involved in a student’s education through mentorship, sponsorship, and engagement. 

Katy ISD’s approach to immersing students in STEAM education through this center has meant high impact at low cost, and this district-wide model provides a potential for districts of all size to provide hands-on STEAM education for all of their students. 

At only 24,000 sf, and a modest budget of $4.9 million, this facility’s impact is far greater than other facilities ten times its size within the district.

comments powered by Disqus

View A Project Near You

Find Stantec projects near you
End of main content To top