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Duquesne Schools Welcome New STEM Center

Seventh-graders returning for 2021-22 school year

By Matt Germaine
The Tube City Almanac
August 02, 2021
Posted in: Duquesne News

The Duquesne City School District will kick off the 2021-2022 school year with a new STEM Center, thanks in part to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

Geared towards older students, the facility will join the similar “makerspaces” utilized by the district’s younger students. But teachers can reserve any facility if they feel it will enhance lessons related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to Jamie Schmidt, Ed.D., the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

“We've found since we have implemented the elementary makerspaces, our students do well. They're most engaged in these spaces,” said Schmidt. “So teachers are looking for any opportunity to take their kids and really engage them in learning because the students love it.”

According to Travis Punt, the foundation’s senior director of development, the facility will include tables and chairs, as well as Chromebooks, 3D printers, and the materials necessary to teach a variety of lessons.

“We basically provide everything [students and teachers] need, from the technology, to the educational kits, to training,” said Punt. “Pittsburgh is a newer market for us. We're just trying to help as many people as we can.”

Established in Baltimore, Md., in 2001 to aid in the area’s youth programming and development, the foundation has grown to sponsor 71 STEM Centers in schools across 14 states, according to its website.

News of the facility coincides with other developments regarding the district in recent weeks.

On July 21, the district received final approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to admit seventh graders for the first time in years.

Schmidt said the district will hold classes for seventh-grade students starting Sept. 1, and hopes to admit eighth graders by the 2022-2023 school year. The school has been admitting students for PreK through sixth grade since 2012. Older students had been attending schools in the neighboring West Mifflin and East Allegheny districts on a tuition basis.

The STEM Center also will aid in the implementation of several new elective courses available to students in the 2021-2022 school year. The district has teamed up with the Amazon Future Engineer program to implement a coding-focused elective, and the Ripken Foundation is sponsoring a robotics-focused class. Additional electives focus on family and consumer science, civics and government, computer concepts, and foreign languages.

According to Schmidt, the STEM Center will be available to students and teachers on the first day of classes. Students in grades 1-7 start classes on Sept. 1, while PreK and kindergarten students start Sept. 2.

Matthew Germaine is a musician and freelance writer in Wilkinsburg. He has previously written for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty and WGDR/WGDH radio. He may be reached at

Originally published August 02, 2021.

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