One year after the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board unanimously gave Director of Building Services Dennis Roehler the go-ahead to begin designing the Innovation Center, the new, hands-on space has finally opened.
Available to students of Saguaro High School and the Scottsdale Math and Science Academy, the Innovation Center is a 5,000 square-foot facility located next to the Media Center on the Saguaro campus and will accommodate a variety of programs, classes, interests and clubs.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Nov. 12 and was attended by Governing Board members, district leadership, and Saguaro staff and students – like 11th grader Natalie Foster, who gave a speech at the ceremony.
Natalie, 17, thanked “all those who helped create the Innovation Center, as they are the reason Saguaro students and our community members can now bring their ideas to life and achieve all new goals.”
Natalie is the event coordinator for Saguaro’s annual Sisters in STEM event, which inspires young girls between the ages of 5 and 15 to pursue interests in STEM via dozens of hands-on, interactive demonstrations and activities.
“With this state-of-the-art facility, we can better teach students about certain aspects of STEM because we have the tools and resources on our campus to do so,” Natalie said.
While this year’s Sisters in STEM event was held virtually, Natalie said they hope to utilize the Innovation Center for future events.
“Hopefully, in the future, we can have students that attend the event come through the Innovation Center, giving them an up-close look at tools, machines and more. An in-person walk-through will also expose these young students to all the opportunities they will have in the future that are related to STEM,” she said.
Sisters in STEM will also use the Innovation Center for organizational purposes, “as volunteer training and event planning will most likely take place here,” she said.
While Phoenix-based BWS Architects created the design plans, and McCarthy Building Companies, Phoenix, handled the construction, the Center was designed with “major input” from SMSA students, like Natalie.
“Myself and a few other SMSA students attended multiple meetings concerning the design of the facility to ensure the space fit all of our needs,” Natalie said.
Among those few other SMSA students was Ben Nearing, 17, a senior at Saguaro and president of four school organizations, including Sabercat Robotics, SMSA, STEM Club, and the Swing Dance Club.
Ben also gave a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony thanking the “generous donors,” including the Farley Family Charitable Foundation, who helped bring the facility to fruition.
“I also spoke from the perspective of a graduating senior,” Ben said. “As I am happy to have the opportunity to be one of the first to use the Innovation Center to teach and create new learners who solve our new problems.”
The $1.4 million Innovation Center, which was financed with 2016 voter-approved bond funds, is described as a “first-of-its-kind” collaborative workspace that boasts rolling tables, magnetic idea boards, 3-D printers, computers, mobile workbenches, machine shop equipment, and classroom furniture.
“The Innovation center will serve as it is named and will provide a greater number of students access to technical machines and the training to use them,” Ben said.
In addition to the facility housing Saguaro’s engineering classes, Career and Technical Education students will also use the space to design and build sets for school theatrical productions.
“This new opportunity for our students and teachers to engage collaboratively across the high school curriculum in hands-on science, technology engineering, mathematics and creative arts problem-solving has been in the works for four years,” said Saguaro Principal Ann Achtziger.
“The innovation mindset and possibilities for open-ended exploration that this new facility can accommodate is going to be amazing for the Saguaro community,” Achtziger continued.
Ben hopes the center will not only become a place of new learning, but that it will also hopefully be “a place of old knowledge as our graduates and community members come together to help teach future students."