Advancing the Mission: Chaminade Unveils Science, Technology and Research Center

WBy Peter Charalambous ’16

When Bro. Benjamin Knapp S.M. ’93 began his college education, the United States was on the precipice of an educational crisis.  The glory days of the Apollo program and its subsequent increase in our country’s focus on science education were long gone, and the number of science students in the United States was sharply declining.  By the time Bro. Ben began teaching at Chaminade, only a fifth of college freshmen were majoring in science, mathematics and engineering fields.  With this in mind, Bro. Ben was determined to accelerate Chaminade’s science education when he became the chairman of our school’s Science Department in the summer of 2012.

“We needed to up our game in science,” he said.

Bro. Ben began his mission as soon as he started in his new position.  In late autumn of 2012, he submitted his proposal to renovate the science labs.  When the proposal came across the desk of Chaminade’s president, Bro. Thomas Cleary S.M. ’81, the innovative leader saw an opportunity to fill the void in Chaminade’s curriculum and to launch the final step in the school’s “Advancing the Mission” campaign.

We are going to take kids who never thought they were going to be interested in science and see them discover a new interest in it.

– Mr. Peter Dubon ’99

This campaign began by upgrading campus facilities through the construction of Gold Star Stadium and revamping of both Ott and Farber Fields.  Next, Chaminade improved its retreat facilities with the building of Saragossa, a new day-retreat center.  The last step of “Advancing the Mission” was the improvement of academics through the implementation of the iPad Initiative, school-wide Wi-Fi upgrades, and the Bloomberg Business Center.  The crown of this final step of the initiative is the building of the Science, Technology and Research Center.

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“Chaminade will still maintain the academic approach we have had for years, which is a four-year liberal arts education,” said Bro. Tom.  “This facility will just enhance the science program in the school, just as the Bloomberg Center has enhanced the math program at the school.”

This new, 32,000 square-foot building, with a price tag of $14 million, was designed by the Mancini-Duffy architecture firm and will sit on the northwest corner of the Chaminade campus.  By exposing students to cutting-edge scientific demonstrations, this building will help foster student interest in the sciences.  With the help of biology teacher Mr. Pasquale Razzano, who used to run a genetic therapy and tissue-engineering laboratory at North Shore University Hospital and currently moderates the Science Research Club, the new building will also be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to acclimate students to college-like laboratory conditions.

“We are going to take kids who never thought they were going to be interested in science and see them discover a new interest in it,” said Mr. Peter Dubon ’99, a past science researcher and current science teacher at Chaminade.

The south entrance of the building will contain a three-floor brick-and-glass atrium.  To offer contrast, the north wall of the atrium will expose a 28-by-30 foot “living wall” composed of many mosses and lichens similar to the organisms students study in earth science classes.  Suspended from the ceiling, a Foucault’s pendulum will descend to the main floor of the building.  This nineteenth-century innovation will demonstrate the earth’s rotation for eager earth science students.

The building will allow for more students to do more hands-on experiments, which is an excellent way to practice methodology.

– Quinn Matos ’16

The first floor will accommodate the earth science and physics labs as well as a lab dedicated to the Science Olympiad team.  After 26 years of Olympiad at Chaminade, this will be the first time the team will have its own lab, which allows the team to further pursue national competitions like the Intel Science Talent Search.  These labs will be between 50 and 60 percent larger than the current ones at Chaminade.  Innovations like digital probes in these labs will allow for maximum accuracy in scientific experiments.  Together with the students’ iPads, the Flyers will be able to perform advanced experiments to both foster scientific interest and expand understanding of complicated topics.

“The building will allow for more students to do more hands-on experiments, which is an excellent way to practice methodology,” said Quinn Matos ’16, co-president of the Science Olympiad team.

The second floor of the building will contain the biology and chemistry labs, as well as a lab for the newly created Science Research Club.  These labs will be equipped with fume hoods to limit exposure to toxic fumes or vapors, increasing safety in these labs.  The labs for the Science Research Club will also increase student involvement in research projects, maximizing opportunities for high-caliber science students.

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“It will give us the opportunity to do cutting-edge research and put Chaminade on the map for something we have not been known for just yet,” said Mr. Razzano.

The third and final floor of the new building will accommodate a multi-purpose room.  This room will be used for presenting science experiments as well as for hosting class lectures.  A balcony overlooking Gold Star Stadium will allow for optimal game viewing during these events.  On the roof, a usable terrace will allow for students studying astronomy to use telescopes to study the sky.

Meanwhile, at the main Chaminade building, the preexisting labs will be converted to accommodate for the school’s new needs. One lab will be turned into a larger school store, while the current school store will be used to expand Chaminade’s Guidance Department.  Another lab will be used to create a spirituality center for both Emmaus and C.R.O.S.S. students.  The Bloomberg Business Center will be moved from the library to a lab, and the library will reclaim a large tract of the Chaminade’s lower floor.  The fourth preexisting lab’s use will be determined in the future.

We needed to up our game in science.

– Bro. Benjamin Knapp S.M. ’93

As the plans for the building come to fruition, both students and teachers are beginning to express excitement about the expansion of Chaminade’s science education.

“I always find myself asking ‘What can we do different?’ or ‘What can we do we better?’” said Bro. Ben.  “This building will open a new realm of possibility in terms of hands-on learning.”

While the next two years at Chaminade will be full of construction, the future looks bright.  When the first eager students enter the new building in the autumn of 2017, they will be exposed to the state-of-the-art technology and learning opportunities.  Mr. Razzano put it best, saying, “The science building is the beginning of something special at Chaminade.”