Real-world STEM learning - Spaceoasis

STEM learning

The SMR Innovation Centre at Desborough College

The STEM skills shortage is reported to be costing the UK economy £1.5bn a year as employers struggle to recruit people with the right qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths. With STEM roles expected to double in the next ten years, as the technological revolution continues apace, it’s crucial that we bridge this gap.

A dynamic space designed to enable blended STEM learning

STEM Learning

One school seizing this gauntlet is Desborough College, an ambitious and high-achieving secondary academy in Maidenhead, whose ethos encourages its students to enjoy, compete and achieve, both inside and outside the classroom. Desborough’s approach to STEM is to blend science, technology, engineering and maths to enable students to apply scientific methods to everyday life. Desborough students learn computational thinking and focus on real world applications of problem solving.

A standard school science lab doesn’t easily lend itself to this highly engaging style of learning, so head of DT and STEM leader, Aine Kelleher, took matters into her own hands. A disused food tech room was ripe for reinvention so, after winning a grant from local education trust, The Spoore, Merry and Rixman foundation, the school contacted Spaceoasis® to help them transform it into The SMR Innovation Centre. From floor to ceiling we completely refurbished the entire space, working with the existing architecture to deliver a zoned STEM learning space agile enough to adapt to a wide variety of tasks and learning styles.

The importance of spaces like the SMR Innovation Centre was given the official nod when Prime Minister Theresa May visited in February 2018 and talked with students about cutting edge technology and its applications.

Teachers and students who use the SMR Innovation centre were asked in a survey to share their thoughts on the space…

“Our new STEM facility has brought with it so many opportunities for teacher development and student led learning,” commented Head of STEM, Aine Kelleher. “We have been able to deliver programming and robotics workshops, welcome STEM ambassadors from many disciplines and engage with local schools with the new facility. We have also delivered 3D printing workshops to our students and local primary students, and used the room to train our own and local teachers. The space has helped us to develop our collaborative learning in the classroom and allowed students to open their imagination and make learning exciting. It has been a really exciting time here with STEM at Desborough.”

Another student remarked, “Good technology and awesome opportunities. The 3D printers and laser cutter are good, but the white boards are a great idea forall subjects and lessons.”

The student feedback was equally positive. One said, “Being able to plan on nearly every surface and make presentations that can be seen by people just walking around is something new and more modern. This room makes you work harder as you really enjoy using the new items. I am also impressed at how well the room looks and works a year on, we really look after this space because we value it.”

And one student who had psychology lessons in the SMR Innovation Centre commented, “I enjoyed the whiteboard tables and walls, I thought it was a really useful and enjoyable method of taking notes. I also like the big screen at the front of the room. It’s a change from the normal classroom. It is
modern and you are able to do different things.”

"We really look after this space because we value it.”


This innovative space consists of four key learning zones, with colour-coded floors to define the areas, each designed to enable different types of learning:




Collaborate Zone

With dry-wipe LearningSurface® walls on three sides, a large central LearningSurface® table with ceiling-mounted projector above (which can project content from devices onto the table’s surface) and Lobe stools upholstered in vinyl, this is a space where students can work together in small or larger groups.

Although open to the rest of the studio on one side, this ‘nook’ has walls on three sides creating an immersive environment, perfect for brainstorms and problem-solving. The LearningSurface® dry-wipe table and walls enable students to sketch and scribe their thoughts and ideas, while the projector facilitates access to any content they may need.




Explore Zone

This area is designed for hands-on, practical discovery and experimentation. With colour-coded storage and plenty of workbench space, students could use this area for building robots, trying out some ideas, building prototypes or experimenting.




Gather Zone

This space is perfect for gathering groups for presentation, instruction or discussion. The varied height seating of the Seminario seating pod (with upholstered seating and tables on the inside and high stools around the outer touchdown) means everyone can see so the speaker doesn’t have to shout to hold their audience’s attention.

In front of the Seminario pod is a fixed presentation wall with an LCD screen that means the blinds can be kept open when the screen is in use to maintain light levels, making it easier for students to sustain concentration.





Reflect Zone

A quiet space where students can go to think, work independently or have one-to-ones with their teacher. In the SMR Innovation Centre the Reflect zone was created out of an old store room and is furnished with upholstered Lobe stools and bench-style tables.

The four learning zones are complemented by mobile Bite tables and Lotus chairs, creating an agile environment that can be configured according to the task in hand.