(This article first appeared in the Belen Jesuit Alumni Magazine, Summer 2020 edition)
Belen Jesuit is moving full STEAM ahead into the future of education with the upcoming Roberto C. Goizueta Innovation Center. Creating academic excellence is an integral part of Belen’s mission, and the Innovation Center will certainly contribute to that goal. Once completed, The Innovation Center will be instrumental in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education at Belen. Construction has been taking place on the 8,000 square foot space since January 2020, and it is expected to be completed in time for the 2020-2021 school year.
The STEAM department is led by Ms. Da Silva and Mr. Perez. “The goal of the Innovation Center is to provide students with a space that fosters creativity and where they can apply knowledge from the classroom in a new way,” said Mr. Perez. The Roberto Goizueta Athletic Center is being renamed the Roberto C. Goizueta Innovation Center. The gym and locker rooms will remain intact, however, the lobby is being remodeled. The second floor of the building is being dedicated to the STEAM Center and will be a physical testament to the success of Belen’s recent endeavors to improve the campus. A mix between traditional classroom, maker space, and science fiction lab, the STEAM Center will give students access to a large selection of tools varying from 3D printers and laser cutters to powerful computers with professional design software and sewing machines.
The STEAM Center will be home to some of Belen’s most hands-on classes. Three engineering classes will take place there, including the new Engineering Design and Development class, in which students will work on a yearlong engineering project of their choice. There will also be the new robotics and STEAM exploration classes for eighth and ninth graders who are interested in those fields. Expanding the engineering classes at Belen is key, as it will allow students to gain experience in this ever-growing field and raise the school’s visibility as a leader in this area.
In addition to the academic opportunities created by the Innovation Center, students will be able to experience expanded extracurricular activities there. The middle school and high school robotics clubs will meet in the Innovation Center, where new workspaces and tools will be available to these teams who have competed from the local to international level. “The robotics team is excited to have a dedicated workspace where we can better collaborate with our members and have access to resources that we have never had before,” said Eduardo Ramirez ‘21, president of the high school robotics team. The STEAM club will also hold meetings there and use the space to continue making creative projects that have improved the school community such as their swinging bench and the crosses used in the Stations of the Cross.
Although the physical expansion brought on by the Innovation Center is impressive, it will be far surpassed by the resources that it will offer students and teachers alike. Ms. Da Silva and Mr. Perez hope to see students and teachers using the resources creatively and expanding upon the already strong learning experience at Belen in many new ways. “What I am most excited about is seeing how our students will use the tools they are given,” said Ms. Da Silva. They emphasize that the Innovation Center is not just a place for science and technology-oriented students to meet for classes. The Innovation Center will be a resource that can be used by the entire school community. If the thespians want to create all of their costumes and set pieces from scratch, using the Innovation Center’s resources would be a perfect fit. If a Theology teacher wants to show students a biblical scene in virtual reality, the equipment in the Innovation Center will create a heavenly picture. The opportunities are endless when the right people are given access to the right tools.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of many individuals and the generosity of Belen’s supporters, students will have a STEAM education that rivals that of the top high schools in the nation. There is no doubt that great things will come from students who will take advantage of the many resources the Innovation Center will have to offer.