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New SmartLab encourages students to pursue careers in engineering, science and more

M.G. Perez
Richard Redmond teaches students about engineering in his SmartLab classroom at Baker Elementary in Mountain View, Nov. 5, 2021

This holiday week, families with students at Baker Elementary in the Mountainview neighborhood are thankful for a new high-tech classroom.

It’s a lab where young learners can use STEAM concepts including science, technology, engineering, the arts and math to develop original ideas.

Richard Redmond is the teacher leading lessons weekly for every student in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“My goal is that we hear our students say, ‘I’m going to be a doctor, scientist, geologist, engineer, game designer, robotics expert,’" Redmond said. “It happened today when a kindergartener, without prompting, remembered that it is his day for the lab and told his dad, ‘I’m going to be an engineer when I grow up!’”

M.G. Perez
Students work in the new SmartLab at Baker Elementary in Mountain View, Nov. 5, 2021

The curriculum includes a wide range of topics like a recent class project on the life cycle of plants. Each student was responsible for maintaining their plant and documenting its growth. Another class required 4th- and 5th-grade students to write code which is a special language used to communicate with computers.

Redmond is committed to exposing his students to as many STEAM opportunities as possible.

“If you’re not exposed to something you don’t think you have an opportunity to do it. You build yourself a glass ceiling,” he said, “but once you’re exposed you feel comfortable and once they go to middle school they can say ‘Yes, I’ve built something.’”

The computers and other high technology resources students use were funded with a grant of more than $140,000 from Campos EPC, an engineering, procurement and construction firm headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The firm decided it was time to invest in California children and donated the money to open the SmartLab on the Baker campus this semester.

M.G. Perez
Richard Redmond helping students with an experiment on the life cycle of plants at Baker Elementary, Nov. 5, 2021

The SmartLab provides opportunities for hands-on exploration, potentially inspiring students to pursue science-based careers in the fields of medicine, engineering and more.

“It’s an opportunity I didn’t have as a child,” Campos EPC's founder and chief executive Marco Campos said. “I know it would have meant a lot to me. Generally, we just need more exposure to STEM. It’s the future of our country.”

Baker Elementary principal Kathleen Gallagher agreed.

“We are very grateful and honored that Campos EPC has chosen Baker Elementary School,” she said. “This will enhance the STEAM education of some of our youngest learners here in San Diego, starting in a very high need and well-deserving school in our district.”

Campos EPC has furnished several schools in the Denver area with similar labs and might provide more funding in California in the future. For now, Baker Elementary is the first beneficiary in the San Diego Unified School District.

While corporate money paid for the computers and learning resources, families of these students and the children, themselves, also made investments in their futures.

“Thirty-five to 40% of our families gave whether it was a dollar, $5, or $10," Redmond said. "I had kids coming in here with pennies in an envelope. These kids are just amazing.”

New SmartLab encourages students to pursue careers in engineering, science and more