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St. Edmond’s Academy sees finishing touches on hub described as ‘melting pot of all these different disciplines’

The Wagner-Szczerba EDGE Arena at St. Edmond's Academy is being installed this summer. Workers installed the necessary networking and electrical equipment. The room also has had new flooring laid, and it has been painted. Photo courtesy of St. Edmond's Academy

BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — Work continues at St. Edmond’s Academy in north Wilmington, where the students will return in late August to find the Wagner-Szczerba Engineering, Design and Gaming Experience Arena ready for business.

The arena will be a hub of science-technology, engineering and mathematics-related activity for all students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The transformation was made possible largely by a gift from Kathleen Wagner-Szczerba, an educator for 35 years and a supporter of St. Edmond’s. Plans for the arena were announced in May.

In the third week of July, the room was freshly painted with a new floor but otherwise empty, but St. Edmond’s headmaster Dominic Maiorano said a lot of work had already been completed. The electrical and networking was done, and the desks, computers and other items for the arena were about ready to go.

The lab will include two 65-inch television monitors and a 75-inch clear-touch panel that will be accessible from any of the 15 computers in the room. A Nintendo Switch will be available. Gaming chairs with the school logo have been ordered, said St. Edmond’s principal Michael Reichert.

Michael Reichert, left, and Dominic Maiorano, graduates of St. Edmond’s Academy, are principal and headmaster, respectively. They are wearing the school’s signature red jackets in this August 2022 file photo; Maiorano’s is the one he received as a student. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

“The teacher can kind of flow in and out based on what the students are doing,” he said, adding that the layout will be like the esports arena at the University of Delaware.

Esports is just a small part of the purpose of the room, Maiorano and Reichert said. It is a classroom that will host every student at some point for computer science, engineering and robotics.

“This will impact every student here, K-to-8. It looks different based on the age,” Reichert said. “All students upon graduation will learn how to code.”

Some students may be in the room more than others, he continued. Just as some boys choose band as an elective, others may select a computer-related option.

Maiorano said students with interests in various subjects will benefit from time in the STEM lab. Whether it is sociology, psychology, communications or something else, all are affected.

“All these majors are going in this one area. It’s like a melting pot of all these different disciplines,” he said.

Maiorano said when the arena plans were revealed to the students, some parents relayed to him that their sons said they couldn’t wait to play video games at school. It has created some buzz at St. Edmond’s among families of both current and prospective students.

“To be able to talk about what we’re doing, to do that at a middle school level, I think is very different,” Maiorano said. “We want to be on the cutting edge and a leader in that area.”

Reichert said he and Maiorano are also working on getting people from outside the school to come and speak to the boys about their professional fields. Technology affects every walk of life, he said.

Although the arena is completely inside the building, a display window looks down on the model train display set up long ago by Holy Cross Brother Thomas Meany. A more traditional science lab is next to the arena. Some of the challenges that have happened in that room, Reichert said, include designing a car that could drive across a laboratory table and creating a parachute that could safely deliver an egg from the top of a stairwell to the floor below.

The Wagner-Szczerba EDGE Arena is sure to get a lot of use, but so do St. Edmond’s two gymnasiums. Another project that is taking place this summer is the installation of new floors in each of the gyms.