The Importance of STEM in K-12 Schools

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) might seem like a buzz word or a trend these days, but demand for careers in these fields are steadily increasingly. Our economy and overall well-being depend heavily on STEM-related occupations—whether it is computer programming, manufacturing, civil engineering, or general family medicine. Getting kids involved and interested in STEM-related activities at a young age, even if they don’t pursue a STEM degree in the future, teaches them problem-solving skills, how to interact with technology, and instills creativity.

Here are some quick stats from the Smithsonian Science Education Center on the importance of STEM:

STEM stats

How can STEM-related fields help the world?
  • Improving sanitation and access to clean water to the 780 million people who currently without clean water
  • Balancing our footprint as energy demand and consumption is increasing at rapid rates
  • Improving agricultural practices to help feed the 870 million people in the world suffering from hunger
  • Fighting global climate change
  • Caring for a large aging population – just think about the 74 million Baby Boomers who are alive today

To get children today ready for a career in the future, it is imperative we pique their interest in the STEM field as early as possible. Getting a program set in place in the classroom is a perfect way to start. So how can we, as architects and engineers, help schools with STEM programs? Take a look at two examples below to see how we’ve helped our Owners prepare kids for their futures:


Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the MLK Community Center

STEM - Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the MLK Community Center

The Martin Luther King Community Center is a profoundly important community resource in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood in Indianapolis. Through a grant from Best Buy and local support, the MLK Center was able to make a considerable investment in access to technology. In order to help this project, come to fruition, Schmidt Associates was hired to take the dream and translate it into a built reality. This Teen Tech Center gives teens a safe place to go to learn, grow, create, and prepare for their futures.

The Teen Tech Center provides training and internship opportunities, where teens can learn about robotics, 3D design, music production, and more. Nationwide, there are currently 22 Best Buy Teen Tech Centers – a number Best Buy hopes to triple by 2020. 95% of teens who attend these centers plan on pursuing education after high school, and 71% plan to pursue a field in STEM. As Indianapolis welcomes more and more jobs in the STEM fields, this center will make sure the future workforce is well-prepared for a brighter future.


Decatur Township School for Excellence – Innovation and Design Hub

STEM - Decatur Township School for Excellence – Innovation and Design Hub

The MSD of Decatur Township is a diverse school district, offering innovative initiatives to their students and members of their community. This new, state-of-the-art Innovation and Design Hub is available for students of all grade levels, teachers, and faculty district-wide to use while expanding their learning capabilities for future careers and pathways in STEM and other areas.

The space includes interactive promethium boards, 3D printers, audio/visual production, a computer programming lab, and more technologies to help students develop better computer, problem-solving, and design thinking skills. It is also flexible in design, replicating an open lab concept to host many people at one time while also providing quiet environments and presentation spaces. Students have the chance to work directly with local industry partners to further increase their knowledge and experience specific to their chosen pathway.


If you have any questions about how to get your school or community center equipped with STEM-related spaces, please reach out!

“One of the things that my experience has taught me is that if you are trained as a scientist in your youth – through your high school and college – if you stay with the STEM disciplines, you can learn pretty much all of the subjects as you move along in life. And your scientific disciplines play a very important role and ground you very well as you move into positions of higher and higher authority, whatever the job is.”

– Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi

5 Tips for Designing More Interactive Classrooms

Interactive learning is one of the best ways for teachers and educators to make sure their students are actually grasping the knowledge and skills they are sharing.

An effort to combat Mark Twain’s famous sentiment of higher education being “a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes without passing through the brains of either,” interactive learning encourages students and educators to get actively involved. In fact, some of the best interactive classrooms can, at first glance, look chaotic because of this type of engagement and often physical movement.

But, as research shows, not giving students an opportunity to interact is likely to impede their ability to really learn – not just memorize and repeat. And teachers agree. In a recent survey, 97% of all educators said that interactive learning experiences undoubtedly lead to improved learning.

Here are some tips for building and designing more interactive classrooms that will benefit both teachers and their students.

1. Provide Flexibility

An interactive classroom needs to be a welcoming, easy-to-use classroom. When designing the space, it’s important to make sure all students, including ones with disabilities, find it easy to move around, join in conversations, sit at tables, etc. Furniture layouts should be flexible, going from lecture-based to project-based collaboration spontaneously. The more a classroom is able to adapt to the subject or project of the day, and whims of the teacher and students (think about including elements like movable tables, rolling/swiveling chairs, comfortable furniture), the more interactive it will be.

2. Smart Surfaces

From large interactive walls to mobile smart boards, the surfaces in the classroom need to be functional and attractive. Teachers should also have access to multiple surfaces, preferably not just at the front of the room, to help facilitate conversations and offer guidance for specific subject material. Increasing flexibility even more, mobile teacher presentation carts allow the teacher to un-tether from a wall location and move about the room.

Mary Castle Elementary

Multiple Writing Surfaces & Mobile Technology Boards for Teachers – Mary Castle Elementary

3. Adjustable Lighting

Light plays a big role in the classroom environment. To help students feel comfortable and relaxed while interacting with each other and teachers, design lighting fixtures that can be adjusted and controlled. Dimmers as well as ambient lighting, not just the standard overhead lights, allow the environment to be changed as needed and will better facilitate conversations, presentations, etc.

4. Maximize Visibility

The best interactive classrooms don’t have a designated “front of the classroom”. Create spaces with your design that allow student seating to be optimized from every point of the room. Students should feel connected with their teachers – not separate from them. By eliminating the ability for students to be placed in designated “back” and “front” of the classroom, design can help equalize the playing field for all students.

5. Technological Savvy

Almost all modern design incorporates the latest technological needs, but perhaps it’s most important when applied to the classroom setting. In order to create interactive classrooms, technology almost always needs to be incorporated. Wireless technology provides the most flexibility in connecting students and teachers to projectors, monitors, and each other for sharing work. Provide multiple charging locations, including floor boxes with USB ports, throughout the room for both students and teachers.

While every classroom can be tailored to specific subjects and grade levels, all interactive classrooms will share the same basic fundamentals. And, because the best interactive designs allow space to be easily reconfigured, these types of classrooms are highly adaptable, making them a great asset for schools across the country.


If you think we would be a good fit for your next project, reach out to us!

BIM in Dispute Resolution – KGR

I had the opportunity to read a great blog post by my friend Greg Cafouros at Kroger Gardis & Regas (KGR). At Schmidt Associates, using Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a standard practice for all of our projects. We see the direct benefits it has on reducing errors and saving costs for our Owners. It is reaffirming to see those BIM benefits stretched to cover potential legal issues as well.

Click the image below to read the KGR blog post:

BIM Attorneys










If you have any questions about how BIM can benefit your project, reach out!

Hands-On Healthcare Education

What makes a successful learning environment for training much-needed healthcare providers? Facilities geared toward experiential learning! Students today must learn differently while new information is being generate faster than ever before. Designers of healthcare teaching facilities are tasked with creating flexible, experiential learning environments to fulfill this need, and Schmidt Associates has worked with many collegiate partners to create facilities to train future healthcare providers.

Experiential learning requires flexible, hi-tech classrooms and laboratories, as well as unstructured learning spaces.

Classrooms must accommodate:

  • state-of-the art technology for technical medical equipment and information,
  • distance learning
  • digital display
  • flexible furniture for collaborative and varied learning
  • enough wireless data capacity for 4-6 devices per student

Marian University COM Classroom

Laboratories must address the many needs of simulation equipment, including technology to run high-fidelity mannequins, adequate space for medical furnishings and equipment, and appropriate infrastructure for simulated gasses and utilities.

Labs also need multiple support spaces: storage for equipment and supplies, information, display and set up space, and potentially small group meeting space. All of these may double the space need for laboratories.

Ivy Tech Franklin

Unstructured spaces are the “accidental” learning spaces that allow students to continue a learning moment with faculty, study in peer social groups, and study on their own while still feeling part of a larger learning group. Breakout spaces, extra large corridors, coffee bars, and lobby areas all provide space for enhanced learning and positive community building.

Marian COM Lounge


Schmidt Associates truly understands these varied learning environments and has expertise in uniting them into cohesive facilities. From the recently opened Marian University Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences (housing the first Catholic College of Osteopathic Medicine in the country), the Ivy Tech Dental Lab in Anderson that serves its community through free and reduced-cost dental care, the Marchant School of Nursing in Bloomington, and the IU Student Health Clinic, hands-on health science facilities are critical to addressing our healthcare crisis.

Ivy Tech Anderson Dental Clinic

As our population continues to grow and age, healthcare education is increasingly important to remedy the shortage of personnel to serve unique and changing healthcare needs. Higher education institutions have stepped up to fill this gap, and collaborative, hands-on training has become the standard pedagogy for medical, nursing and dental school programs.

If we can help transform your facility into an interactive environment for future healthcare professionals, reach out!

Q&A Session with Matt Durbin

Matt Durbin, Technology Designer and Information Systems (IS) Manager, has taken an interesting path to land where he is today. Below, we journey along that path with him.





Where did you go to school?
I attended Olney College, majoring in General Studies and playing first base on their baseball team.

And your path from there?
My second year at Olney, we came back from Thanksgiving and I was out hunting with friends. Apparently, I was mistaken for wildlife. I was sprayed with buckshot in both legs. After my friends carried me back to my truck, they drove me to the hospital, where I lived for the next couple weeks. Following that, though, I didn’t go back to Olney. Instead, I got a job as a surveyor.

How did you transition from a Surveyor to a Technology Designer?
I started getting tired of being wet and cold from working outside, so I moved inside at the Civil Engineering firm I was working for. I realized I had gotten pretty good at Autodesk software and understanding computers.

At the time, there was no real degree that would support my interests, so I had to learn on the job. I joined a technology committee at my office and helped install my first network in 1990. I made several professional moves, acquired some key certifications, and eventually landed at Schmidt Associates as the Information Technology (IT) Manager. From there, I transitioned back into the design side of things and started designing technology for clients, not just Schmidt Associates. I moved from IT Manager to Technology Designer.

Obviously, Schmidt Associates is your favorite employer, but have you done anything else interesting along the way?
Actually, yes. I worked for the Indianapolis Zoo for a while. It was pretty cool to just walk outside and see an elephant or flamingo. Did you know that penguins are ridiculously loud and don’t smell like roses? I installed a camera in their habitat one time and had some up-close encounters with them!

What do you do in your free time?
I guess you could say I am an outdoorsy kind of guy. I like to fish, ride four-wheelers, tractors. It took me a while to get past being shot, but I actually do some target shooting now too, but I don’t hunt anymore.

Do you collect anything?
Hats. I probably have 50 or 60. I have always worn them, so somewhere along the way, I started collecting them. I have a wall in my basement where I keep my favorites displayed. The others are just stacked in boxes.










Matt and his wife, Kristan met while visiting mutual friends at Ball State and have been married 25 years. They have two daughters, Mackenzie and Morgan, and a dog, Copper. Mackenzie is finishing her senior year at Herron College studying photography. Morgan is a sophomore at Marian University’s School of Nursing and is a student in the Evans Center for Health Sciences—a facility her Dad designed the technology for. Copper is carrying out his duty of being a good boy.


Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia Coffee, and Eric Broemel

Clash Detection: Protecting your Budget and Timeline

What is Clash Detection?

Clash Detection software integrates with BIM/Revit design tools, showing the designers and contractors when two or more objects are intersecting and by how much. The software exports a location and physical image of the detected intersection, so you will see the actual conflicting pipes, duct runs, wires, etc. that need to be resolved.

There are three main types of clashes that can occur:

  1. Hard clash: when two objects pass through each other
  2. Soft clash: when two objects invade into geometric tolerances for other objects
  3. 4D/Workflow clash: resolves scheduling clashes and abnormalities as well as delivery clashes (for example, installation of ceilings before ductwork or plumbing fixtures before piping)

Why is it important?

Using Clash Detection is the easiest way to avoid coordination issues before they become change orders.  It allows designers to detect and correct issues in the virtual world before they make it to the real world (where they can be costly).  We can see what will and won’t work early in the design process rather than when construction has begun. Our engineers can run Clash Detection from day one and on until the project is on-site, allowing the construction process to be streamlined.

We use this technology to determine best routing paths for engineering systems. As we team with architects, we can proactively plan how to best integrate, route, and hide building systems within the design. Space efficiency is also enhanced by allowing designers to test tight configurations prior to delivering equipment to the site.

At the core of it, Clash Detection saves time and money. According to The BIM Center, an estimated $17,000 is saved per detected clash.


The Interactive Classroom

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times. Technology is constantly changing how we function at home, in the workplace, around town, in school, and just about everywhere else in the world. In this blog, we are going to focus on one way we’ve see classroom technology is evolving to fit the needs of 21st century students.

From raggedy pulldown maps and black chalkboards, to chunky projector monitors anchored on a bulky cart in the middle of the room, to whiteboard walls and mounted projectors, the classroom technology landscape has been shifting shape throughout our lifetime rather quickly. We are now rarely including traditional projectors in the classroom, rather we are moving to interactive display monitors that allow students and teachers to be even more in-touch with lessons. In fact, six out of the eight elementary schools Schmidt Associates has designed in the last six months will use interactive display monitors instead of projectors on smart boards.

The interactive display monitors use wireless connectivity. This allows them to sync with mobile devices such as tablets, smart phones, and even laptops to mirror the screen and share the information being worked on with the entire room. Students can display their work within the class and present on how they came to the solution they are discussing. Teachers can integrate multiple levels of engagement within one lesson plan. Students can focus on website pages, videos, and interactive activities all in one place. These display monitors turn a regular classroom into a virtual, hands-on, multi-sensory learning environment. Ultimately, students are more engaged and teachers are fitting more into one lesson.

Each school district has a different reason for moving to this technology, but a driving force is a change in teaching style from lecture style to small group learnings. If a district wants to keep to the front of the room, we wall mount the interactive display monitors. To ensure functionality for all users, we use an adjustable height wall mount unit. For a district that wants the flexibility to move the display monitor, we use a cart. The only limitation on where they can be put is based on the ability to reach a power outlet.

Crestview Elementary School – Interactive Display Monitor

Coordination and design of these systems require similar work as traditional projectors. In some respects, it is easier because it doesn’t require as much wall or ceiling infrastructure, it is all on the cart or mounted unit. We also don’t have to be as concerned about light levels like was needed with traditional projectors.

While we haven’t received many bids on these projects yet to know actual costs for comparison to traditional projection, our estimates show it to be a 10-15% premium. The cost of this technology has become much more affordable in recent years as technology advances. While this is a premium, it has been an ‘easy sell’ so far. The operating costs associated with traditional projectors are higher due to replacing bulbs every year or two. With the interactive display monitor, the warranty covers the first three years, and the projected life span of the technology is 5-8 years.

The Evolution of a Meeting

Since the beginning of social civilization, people have held meetings in some form or another. One could argue the first “meetings” were held around a campfire, discussing a tribes’ plans for the next season and where they would move. Over time, as humans settled and formed cities, these meetings moved into a room. The technological revolution of the past 60 years however, has had a drastic impact on how humans meet and interact inside and outside of these rooms.



Technology has been one of the biggest driving forces behind change in our society. It is evident when looking back throughout history and when looking ahead to the future. From the health field to the design world, and into people’s everyday lives, evolving technology has made a huge impact: one way or another. It changes the way we learn, communicate, work, and play. There is less face-to-face interaction and more face-to-screen conversations today. Anyone who walks down a busy street and counts how many people are looking at their smartphones could attest to this.

This face-to-screen aspect has a significant impact on how we design spaces. We’ve noticed a trend across all project types, particularly workplace and education. There is a want/need for specific technology to allow for some form of virtual meetings. Video conferences, instant messaging, screen sharing, and note transfers are just a few non-traditional meeting options technologies now brings to the table. Like anything else, there will always be advantages and disadvantages to these digital meetings:


  • Saves time and money on travel. Between traveling costs, mileage, and possibly even hotels, a simple long-distance meeting can rack up big bucks and take hours. Technology allows businesses and schools to put that money toward something else on the list because they saved money on travel.
  • Your geographical range can expand. It is a lot simpler to meet with someone across the world if you just tap in via video conferences. Even if there is a 12-hour time difference. One less reason to hold back on expansions for your business.
  • Everyone can feel connected. Whether it is connecting long-distance employees/clients to a project more directly or allowing a sick student to conference into class instead of missing out on a lesson, using technology has a way of bringing people together to make them feel included.
  • Meetings can happen more frequently. Due to the costs of travelling, meetings would often be more sporadic and for longer periods of time. Now, you can hold a standing weekly hour-long meeting with individuals all around the world rather than traveling to one meeting every six.


  • Can be hard to read the people on the other end. Not everyone is set up with capabilities to video conference in. This makes it impossible to read body language and make direct eye contact.
  • It is expensive! It isn’t a secret that high-tech comes with a high price tag.
  • There can always be glitches that come along with technology. Jumping on an important conference call 20 minutes late because your conferencing system was having a technical problem can be frustrating.

In the past, there have been many design solutions to attempt to overcome these cons, and bring us back to the human interaction that started with that first meeting around a campfire. Several companies have developed possible solutions that were specifically designed to counter-act the inherent disconnect of looking at someone on a screen rather than physically sitting across the table from them. These “telepresence” rooms often try to recreate an in-person meeting room, through a variety of visual gimmicks such as curved tables or half of a table with a screen at the end, but these often fall flat. Furthermore, with fixed furniture, there is not much of an option to use this room for anything other than virtual meetings.

With the development of larger, thinner, and higher resolution display screens, we are approaching a time that has often been the subject of science fiction movies: wall surfaces become virtual displays, 360-degree virtual reality cameras recreating any location, holograms, etc. It does not seem like such a far-fetched idea now that you could have multiple people meeting in a “virtual” conference room, looking at the person on a screen as if they are sitting next to you. The flexibility of not being tied to a specific piece of furniture or specific set of technology frees the end user to use this room in a multiple of ways.

The biggest hurdle to this is going to be the cost and continuous development always spitting out the next “big thing”. However, designing around an idea rather than a specific product could help alleviate some concerns, so new technology could be swapped into an existing room without a complete redesign. There is no perfect answer at this point to making the virtual meeting as effective as those first “meetings” around a campfire from the human perspective, but change is coming. And with each new development, we step incrementally closer to achieving that goal.

Project Blogs: What are They and how do They Work

Schmidt Associates believes it is important to keep Owners, users, and the members of the surrounding community involved with the design process. However, it can be a challenge meet with all of those people and keep them informed without delaying a project’s schedule. To address this need, Schmidt Associates has developed project blogs to serve as a two-way communication tool—benefiting the Owner, the community and our design team and reducing time spent by all parties.

Project blogs can have different purposes, depending on whom the audience is intended to be and the information that is desired to be communicated (e.g. community consensus, or design decision communication, or merely community awareness). The blog created for Lake Central High School, a $100 million additions and renovation project, worked well as a programming and design tool. This project was on an accelerated schedule to keep the School Corporation’s promise of having their freshman students use the new facility before they graduated.  Typically, the design phase of a project like this could stretch to 3 or 4 months, but with the use of the project blog that time was shaved to roughly 6 weeks.  During design, meetings were held with select individuals from the School to review program and design information. The results of these meeting were posted shortly thereafter to the blog including graphics showing proposed layouts, etc.

Renderings of what Lake Central High School would eventually look like from different views

Renderings of what Lake Central High School would eventually look like from different views

Details and preliminary renderings of the athletic space

Details and preliminary renderings of the athletic space

The blog was then shared with all of the teachers and other users of the facility for review and comment. The process allowed all of the staff to be involved in the design, know how they would be affected, and have an opportunity for input.  It also condensed the reiterative process of design and allowed the project to meet the schedule.

Receiving comments on designs shared is an important aspect of the use of blogs. Gathering a community consensus, positive or negative, can help steer a project’s direction.  Most public blogs have comments built-in to the posts, but as you may know comments can be destructive to a process as well especially when commenters have an advantage of anonymity.  To address this issue, most of the blogs we produce only allow comments through emails.  These comments are received and shared with the Owner, outside of the public posts of the blog. This allows Owners and the Design Team to identify the commenter,  and address the comments in a direct, discreet (return email) fashion or a public fashion (blog post) that other involved parties can view.

Schmidt Associates simply offers these blogs as another service to Owners— allowing them to have total control over how much information is shared on a blog and who will have access to view it. Some blogs are private, open only to a project committee, and others are open to anyone and everyone. Some Owners even choose to have both a public and private blog. The Owner may want the public to only be able to view floorplans, leaving everything else accessible to the project committee.

In summary, there are several benefits to Owners who choose to implement project blogs for a project:

  • A wide range of information is share to those interested in seeing a project’s progress that normally would not be involved
  • Ability to trace comments and opinions
  • Users are one click away from the information they need and can share it with others
  • Seeing floorplans and 3D modeling gets people excited about the finished product
  • The Owner controls the content not the Design Team
  • Owners can view our past blogs to get a sense of how blogs can work for them

Technology Integration Series

Schmidt Associates has developed a two part series on technology integration in a healthcare educational environment including: technology basics, its impact on an overall campus, and specific implementation in a new medical school and medical research environment.

Technology Basics in Healthcare Education and Research

Technology has become a huge recruiting tool for healthcare programs at universities and for healthcare careers. Why? Simply because of the benefits that it has on an educational and professional experience. For example, technology allows healthcare students to simulate real life situations using mannequins without jeopardizing patient safety.

Marian University COM Simulation Lab

With the current generation of students that universities are serving, technology is such an integral part of their lifestyle. We stress to our clients that they need to equip this generation of students with the tools they are familiar with as well as the advanced technology they will see in their future professional careers. Students these days think through technology, it is the institution’s educational responsibility to equip them with these tools.

Since technology changes every 6-12 months, Schmidt Associates often recommends to our clients to bid the technology scope separate from the construction project. Doing so allows the client to procure the most current and up-to-date technology equipment just before occupancy of the building.

In sum, technology has a huge role in advancing institution’s curriculums and courses in order to fully prepare students for what’s ahead. It also plays a critical role in attracting and retaining professionals once they enter the workforce.

Healthcare Technology Impacts on the Overall Campus

Integrating technology into advanced healthcare programs will ultimately have a dramatic impact on the overall campus-wide setting. In order to make sure that the software and new technology fits in with both the healthcare program’s goals and the institutional goals, it is extremely important the technology leadership group, as well as the campus leadership group, is involved in the project planning. This allows you to understand what the institution currently has and why, so that you can successfully integrate the new technologies within that premise.

It’s also important to understand the different programs being served and how the new technologies can have a positive or potentially negative impact on them. For example, when Schmidt Associates was working with Marian University on their new School of Osteopathic Medicine, we found the integration of the new medical school technology was so advanced that it led to an elevation of technology throughout the entire campus. With this came a need for additional staff, expanded campus fiber infrastructure, and new technology protocols.  Although this resulted in additional expense to the University, the overall result was a more robust technology infrastructure that provides better access to its faculty, staff, and student body.