Taipei American School has just unveiled plans for its groundbreaking new campus project: a five-floor building for the school’s technology and design programs. Dubbed the “Tech Cube,” this new building aims to give students the opportunity to expand their explorations in STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
“We needed to construct a space where students can work together and grow by trial and error,” school superintendent Dr. Sharon Hennessy said. “Kids get so much more out of their education when they have room to make mistakes. The Tech Cube is going to [make] space for that.”
Administrators hope that the Tech Cube’s futuristic design will inspire students to embrace the “arts” aspect of TAS’s STEAM initiative. “By planning the building in such a way, we’re making a statement. We’re saying that we want to be known for our innovative design,” upper school principal Dr. Hartzell said. “We need projects at TAS to be both practical and iconic.”
The unique features that will shape our Tech Cube range from the stunning to the whimsical. While designers envision futuristic glass walls for the building’s top three floors, they also plan to build a slide for lower school students, in lieu of a staircase. “I like the playfulness of these elements,” lower school technology and design director Ms. Asavavatana said. “It appeals to the age group, and draws out the nature of STEAM.”
The project, the latest in a string of renovations and additions to the school, is TAS’s largest undertaking since the addition of the Upper School Science and Technology building, or D-Block, in 2012. According to Dr. Hennessy, both the administration and the school board are aiming to “demonstrate support and commitment for all fields, academic and otherwise” with this project.
“We’ve already made so much space for our students to excel in every other area: debate, arts, theater,” she said. “We’ve made a stage for our dancers, but now we need a place for our scientists to ‘perform’.
And perform, they will. The building will accommodate students at every grade level, allocating the first two floors for the lower and middle school, and upper three floors for the upper school. Architects plan for the Tech Cube to be nestled in between the Lower and Upper Fields and connected via Skybridge to A-block.
It will contain a combination of labs, classrooms, and open testing grounds tailored to the needs of every program. The extra breathing room is also a much needed addition to the science programs at TAS. Participation in robotics and computer programs has shot up in the past few years, with space quickly running out for science classrooms. The TAS robotics program has grown exponentially since its founding: this past year saw the school’s robotics teams in cities all over the world, from the several states in the US to Germany.
This student interest in technology programs often starts as early as lower school, when students are first introduced to the engineering process through elective classes and after-school activities. “We begin integrating basic knowledge with self-designed projects by grade four,” digital literacy coordinator Ms. Rainbow said. Because of this, high school students are well-prepared for challenging courses in STEAM when they reach the ninth grade. “Our students are going into high school with more background, interest, and skill than ever before,” Dr. Hartzell says. “TAS is really emerging as a leader in STEAM, simply because it’s a school with many talented individuals in the area. It’s what sets us apart from so many others in the world.”
In a world that is constantly growing through technological innovation, this newfound interest in engineering holds incredible potential for students. And as Dr. Hennessy remarks, “I may not have a science degree, but I know is that this initiative is important for our students. I know it’s the future.”