King Science & Technology Magnet wins Award of Distinction

Each week since the beginning of January, interior designer Jessica Gibbons and architect Jay Weingarten have alternated visits to the King Science & Technology Magnet 7th grade Zoo Architecture class to work with students on an exciting conceptual design endeavor – Project Cats: Renovation of the Cat Complex at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. As the class created a conceptual floorplan for the remodel and addition, Jay and Jessica assisted with precedent research, space planning, Sketchup modeling, material selection, and finish boards. The result? An award-winning plan, which was revealed during a March 17 design competition in Omaha.

A program of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), the SAME SMP (student mentoring program) was developed to stimulate students’ interest and excitement in engineering, architecture, and related sciences. Zoo Architecture teacher Mr. Brett Redemske oversees the program. “This is an excellent opportunity for students to have a deeper experience in scientific processes and problem solving, and gives them a chance to develop a better understanding of how community issues are researched and resolved”, he said. The school has participated in the program for more than 12 years.

RDG’s participation in the program and partnership with this talented group of youngsters goes beyond a commitment to community connection, but aims to help younger generations become aware of their own limitless potential through creativity, education, and engagement. Additionally, the program offers exposure to occupational paths, real-world scenarios, office environments, and career fields to which students may have limited exposure.

“Gaining experience in solving such big problems that are beyond what students normally encounter in their daily lives was an eye-opener for many of them,” said Mr. Redemske.  “They each learned a lot about how to collaborate with peers to set goals, work to complete them, and then to evaluate their performance. We couldn’t have been more fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Jay and Jessica, who helped students think through the problems presented by the project. And the tour of the RDG offices showed students that there are many potential career fields that are available in the area of engineering and architecture.”

“The students were very interested in architecture and design,” Jessica said. “This especially showed during their field trip to RDG, and it was also clear in just how proud they were of their accomplishments! They did an exceptional job working as a team, and their presentation was well done.”

The students were challenged by the process, but enjoyed the task of solving such a large problem. Each walked away with a better understanding of how zoos are designed and what considerations must be met in order to have a safe enclosure for big cats. “Their biggest accomplishment,” noted Mr. Redemske, “Was that they gained confidence in solving complex problems that can affect the community, or in this case, the animals at the zoo.”

We’d like to extend our congratulations to the talented Zoo Architecture class, who achieved a well-deserved Award of Distinction for their concept, and earned $500 for King Science & Technology Magnet! “It was such an enjoyable experience,” said Jay. “It was just as rewarding for us, if not more, as it was for the students.”


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