McGee Foundation Grant Helps Pop-up Studio Project Gain STEAM

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Students and a coach at the STEAM Studio

In April, officials from Rockhurst University and architecture firm Gould Evans announced plans to transform the lower level of the Greenlease Library into a new multidisciplinary engaged learning and innovation space for students at Rockhurst and in the community — the STEAM Studio pop-up.

Those same STEAM Studio leaders are now announcing an early boost to that effort, in the form of a $50,000 grant from the McGee Foundation.

The space in the Greenlease Library, which is scheduled to officially open at the beginning of the spring 2019 semester, will be outfitted with technology and modular furniture to facilitate creative projects across a variety of disciplines using the design thinking model.

The University is donating laptops to the effort, while various vendors such as Scott Rice and Gould Evans are donating furniture and other materials. The grant will fill out the plan to transform the studio, funding technological and electrical upgrades to the pop-up space, the purchase of a 3D printer, tablet computers, and smart projectors for interactive presentations.

“This grant comes at the perfect time,” said Mandi Sonnenberg, Ed.D., associate professor of education and co-founder of the STEAM Studio. “As we get the furniture set up, we want to make sure the space is multi-purpose and the technology available serves the needs of everyone who will be using the space.”

Some of the activities that will take place in the space will be an extension of what has been going on since 2014 at the STEAM Studio in Gould Evans’ Westport office — collaborative education for K-12 students focused on the design thinking approach through STEAM subject areas (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) facilitated by coaches who are Rockhurst University students.

But what is especially exciting about the pop-up space on campus, according to Sonnenberg, is that it allows STEAM Studio to open its programming to new populations of students.

“This is a way to open our doors to the community around us,” she said. “We want to engage more with the schools in our neighborhood and having the pop-up studio on campus is going to be a great way to extend our reach.”

In fact, Sonnenberg said, another grant, from the Missouri Campus Compact, will help fund a one-day “STEAM Studio Innovation Fest” on campus for 40 sixth through 12th grade students attending public and private schools in the Troost corridor.

Jennifer Friend, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the STEAM Studio pop-up is also going to be a great resource for a variety of groups of Rockhurst undergraduate and graduate students. She said the STEAM Studio is designed to be an incubator of ideas, a space for different disciplines from occupational therapy to fine arts to work together to solve problems and to create using the design thinking framework and technology. For students in the University’s education programs, the pop-up will be a resource for learning and honing their classroom teaching skills, as well.

“Our M.Ed. in educational studies has a new STEAM concentration, so the pop-up will also serve as an in-house lab for those students,” Friend said.