camp interior concept

Science Research Institute drives renovation of Camp Building

Working with local Reading AEM Architects, Albright College and the Science Research Institute located on Albright’s campus, are moving forward with plans to renovate the spacious Leo Camp Building (located at 1801 N 12th Street in Reading) into a state-of-the-art facility optimized for experiential learning, elite training, technological exploration and community engagement.

The nonprofit Science Research Institute (SRI) — for K-12 grade students — is financially supported by more than 80 organizations nationwide, spanning businesses, scientific industry groups, higher education, professional organizations and foundations.

“Science Research Institute is one of the most exciting projects driving the reinvention of Berks County as a hub of innovation and creativity,” said Kevin Murphy, president and CEO of the Berks County Community Foundation. “Making the Camp Building into a home worthy of that effort will accelerate our progress and allow us to expand the number of students who can participate.”

The Science Research Institute Camp Building renovation will include 25,000 square feet of state-of-the-art science and technology laboratory and research spaces — designed to create an environment that encourages innovation, complemented by access to research-grade equipment, exposure to cutting-edge technology, and introductions to modern sciences by skilled mentors.

“A unique combination of industry-grade equipment — and safety features designed specifically for middle and high school students — will make this facility a one-of-a-kind in the United States,” said Adelle L. Schade, dean of pre-college and summer programs and director of SRI at Albright.

The building will feature hands-on experiences via several high-level scientific resources:

  • Cell culture facilities
  • Materials and glass science laboratory
  • Advanced imaging equipment (electron microscope, confocal and fluorescence imaging)
  • A greenhouse to incorporate horticulture and agricultural sciences
  • Laboratories dedicated to computer science, 3D printing and design, histology, etc.
  • Large common areas to encourage interaction and collaboration

Later phases will expand Science Research Institute’s footprint within the building and add spaces that support some of Albright College’s most creative and innovative programs and STEAM disciplines, for more synergistic SRI collaborations. These projections include a flexible theater performance area, classrooms, laboratories and studio spaces for music industry studies, fashion merchandising and digital communications.

“As the oldest college in Reading, Pa., Albright College’s longstanding commitment to science and workforce development continues today,” said Provost Karen A. Campbell, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic affairs, faculty dean and P. Kenneth Nase chair of biology at Albright. “We are committed to educating students of academic promise and to enhancing Reading’s reputation as an innovation center.”

Science Research Institute growth

SRI expanded to the Albright College campus in February 2020. The expansion was a natural progression; Albright College students have served as interns and mentors to the program’s middle and high school students since SRI’s inception in 2015.

Offered during and after school hours as well as in the summer, SRI programs encourage K-12 grade students to create self-directed research projects in biomedical, genetic, environmental, agricultural, biotechnology and materials sciences. Students can also participate via dance, art, music, the humanities, culinary arts and fashion.

This year, Albright College enhanced its dual enrollment program, allowing 11-12 grade students to earn college credit for their participation in SRI, when accompanying it with a college course.

Since SRI’s inception, enrollment has increased by 800% and the program has been recognized nationally and internationally for STEAM education. Nine students have pending or provisional patents for their SRI projects.

“SRI is successful because it guides students in building visionary projects and products,” said Schade. “We also assist students in protecting their intellectual property and understanding business opportunities that might be available as a result of their efforts.”

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