iScholars Win 1st Place in National School Design Competition

A photo of iScholars celebrating

The SMART Collaborative’s iScholars* received first place for their innovative school of the future in a national design competition hosted by the Association for Learning Environments. The iScholars attend Neal Middle School in Durham, North Carolina.

The afterschool initiative is a part of the SMART Collaborative and based out of the NC State College of Education for students to collaborate on meaningful STEM projects that speak to social and physical conditions they have identified in their own communities.

In April, the group qualified for regional and national competitions by designing a school that honored students’ cultures and fostered a sense of belonging in all students. They drew inspiration from ethnic and indigenous patterns to design the architecture of their proposed building that doubled as a cultural center for the community.

Joanna Ali, a first-year master’s student in educational psychology, serves as the lead advisor for Neal Middle School’s iScholar team. They will present their final design at the association’s national conference in Anaheim, California, in October.

About the SMART Collaborative: The SMART Collaborative is an interdisciplinary community of educators and researchers who are firmly committed to making schools places where all students want to be and want to learn. DeLeon Gray, Ph.D., an associate professor of educational psychology at the NC State College of Education and faculty fellow in NC State’s African American Cultural Center, leads the initiative alongside Lauren Bryant, Ph.D., a research scholar at the college. Currently, the SMART Collaborative supports the iScholars program that works to develop a coherent set of instructional practices for teachers and community stakeholders that target motivational needs specific to early adolescents in Durham, North Carolina, and the STEM Career Clubs Strategies project that establishes after-school STEM Career Clubs at isolated rural middle schools in northeastern North Carolina.

*iScholars is supported by the National Science Foundation under award no. 1433747.