First-of-its-kind STEM Center about to launch at Berkner High School in Richardson ISD

This robot operated by a student navigates objects in The STEM Center. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)
This robot operated by a student navigates objects in The STEM Center. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)

This robot operated by a student navigates objects in The STEM Center. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Robotics is one of several classes held in The STEM Center. (Makenzie Plusnick/Community Impact Newspaper)
Richardson ISD is just two months away from the grand opening of its state-of-the-art STEM Center, which district officials say is the first of its kind at a school in the U.S.

The STEM Center—which stands for science, technology, engineering and math—had its soft opening at Berkner High School in fall 2019.

The center is meant to be an extension of the classroom, said Kyndra Johnson, RISD executive director of STEM and innovation. At full implementation, students from Berkner’s 16 feeder schools will use the space beginning in kindergarten.

“We are looking at more than 12,000 kids and a little bit more than 680 or 700 staff [members] in that learning community who will experience STEM education and blended learning in a very unique and uncommon way,” Johnson said.

The STEM Center is the latest addition to Berkner’s in-house STEM Academy, which allows students to study engineering, robotics, aeronautical engineering or biotechnology. That program was expanded to include cybersecurity and STEM management in 2018.


In a Robotics I class, students spend the semester creating robots that can pick up film canisters, navigate around a mat covered in obstacles and raise themselves onto a post.

“They get to design an object to complete a challenge, a real-world challenge, because this is what NASA and other private companies are doing right now,” Robotics I teacher Bernie Gibson said.

The center also includes a space for zSpace technology, a form of virtual reality that allows students to see a 3D object, such as the human heart, and dissect each part of it.

The center was paid for through the latest district bond, approved by RISD voters in 2016. The referendum set aside money for a renovation of the space, which district officials chose to use for STEM-related classes, said Henry Hall, RISD executive director of instructional technology.

“We need to create programs that our students are interested in—that our community needs, as far as workforce,” Hall said.

One of the highlights of The STEM Center is the Immersion Studio, which is under construction but is expected to be complete in the first few weeks of January, Hall said. The round room facilitates a 360-degree virtual reality experience for students.

“[Students] will be able to be deep within the ocean or far in outer space or anywhere that they can think of,” Hall said.

Johnson expects students to be using the Immersion Studio as early as Jan. 21.

The next step for the district is to prepare teachers to use the center and to create a system that gives all RISD students a chance to use the space, Johnson said.
By Makenzie Plusnick
Makenzie graduated from Tarleton State University in 2019 with a degree in communications. While in school, she interned at the Weatherford Democrat and was editor of Texan News Service, a news outlet at Tarleton. She enjoys true crime podcasts, riding horses, and spending time with her dog.


MOST RECENT

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

The Grind Burger Bar Tap Room offers craft burgers and beer. (Courtesy The Grind Burger Bar Tap Room)
Grind Burger Bar to open in McKinney and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The League of Women Voters Richardson is holding an in-person voter registration drive ahead of the Nov. 3 election. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
League of Women Voters Richardson to hold in-person registration event at Coit and Belt Line roads

The event will be held Sept. 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Richardson Farmers Market.

Students are dropped off at Weatherford Elementary School on Sept. 9, the first day of in-person learning. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano ISD students, staff settle into new school year

Adjustments made to several key areas of district operations are outlined in this story from Community Impact Newspaper's September edition.

Wok & Grill closed Sept. 9. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Wok & Grill shutters in Richardson

The restaurant posted on Facebook that it had made the sudden decision to close its doors.

Richardson ISD is facing the possibility of reduced funding due to a significant enrollment decline. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Enrollment declines in Richardson ISD could lead to multi-million dollar deficit, officials report

RISD enrollment is down by more than 2,000 students so far this year.

Families in Richardson ISD can change their learning method from Sept. 29-Oct. 1. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Richardson ISD prepares for potential influx of students as families change learning methods

RISD officials said they are faced with the major hurdle of preparing for a possible influx of students who choose to return in October.

Richardson will soon have a team of officers dedicated to addressing mental health issues in the community. (Courtesy Richardson Police Department)
Richardson Police Department prepares to launch mental health crisis team

The department has seen a high volume of calls related to mental illness, Assistant Chief Gary Tittle said.

Not-for-profit agencies in Collin County can submit invoices for personal protective equipment to the county for reimbursement. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Collin County to reimburse housing and shelter not-for-profits for some coronavirus costs

Collin County plans to reimburse not-for-profit organizations that provide housing and shelter services for costs they have accrued assisting citizens during the coronavirus pandemic.

The business will offer a full coffee menu and a small selection of curated toast options in a modern, open setting. (Rendering courtesy Staycation Coffee)
Staycation Coffee to bring hybrid cafe, floral shop, backyard event space to Richardson

The business will offer a full coffee menu and a small selection of curated toast options in a modern, open setting.

Main Street Food Hall is expected to open in Frisco in 2021. (Courtesy Bryan Brickman)
Food hall coming to Frisco in 2021 and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Cottonwood Market houses over 300 vendors. (Courtesy Cottonwood Market)
Richardson Mercantile changes name, under new ownership

The store changed its name to Cottonwood Market in late August.