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Friends’ Central Unveils the Audrie Gardham Ulmer ’37 Center for Innovation and Design in Fall 2024   

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Friends' Central School
Friends' Central Courtesy of Friends' Central

At Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, PA, STEAM education is an area where students are bound only by imagination and determination. Students and teachers work side by side to explore and discover, each taking turns as experts and learners. To help the journey, the school’s state-of-the-art studios are filled with materials, tools—both high-tech and low-tech, analog, and digital—and inspiration, which drive creativity and empower learning. In 2022, Friends’ Central launched a competitive and successful robotics team.  

In 2022, Friends’ Central converted a former gymnasium into Phase I of their new Center for Innovation and Design (CID) on their City Avenue campus (for grades 6-12). Upon the unveiling of Phase I in September 2022, the CID instantly became a campus favorite, serving as a creative hub for students in their STEAM education. This widespread enthusiasm includes class projects, independent projects, and clubs. Phase II construction of the CID began this January, and the school is thrilled to announce that the brand new, fully realized Audrie Gardham Ulmer ’37 Center for Innovation and Design will be open for business in September 2024. 

Phase I of Friends’ Central’s CID in September 2023
(Courtesy of Friends’ Central)

What Happens in the CID?

When you step into Friends’ Central’s CID, it is always a hive of activity. From courses like Design Thinking: Concept to Creation, 3D Fabrication and Introduction to Computer Hardware to extracurricular programs including competitive robotics and design challenges on the local and national levels. The CID provides students with many opportunities for guided instruction from teachers, for hands-on learning and creation. Many students devote extra time to independent engineering and design projects in the CID.  

What Will Phase II of the CID Bring? 

The completion of the Audrie Gardham Ulmer ’37 Center for Innovation and Design is well underway and entails a significant architectural redesign, turning the one-floor workshop into a two-floor facility with multiple classrooms within approximately 6,800 square feet of space. Featuring a mezzanine that overlooks the open work area and large windows that face onto the center of campus, the completed Center will maintain the interconnected, community-oriented layout of Phase I, while increasing opportunities for simultaneous learning to take place. Specialized spaces will include a fabrication studio, a green room, a design studio, a robotics area, and even an outdoor classroom. 

FCS Middle School STEAM Education  

Friends’ Central Middle School students (grades 6-8) have regular access to the CID. Experiences in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics are provided both in and outside of the classroom. Students may take computer science and programming courses as well as join the Middle School robotics team. 

(Courtesy of Friends’ Central)

FCS Upper School Computer Science, Technology and Data Analysis 

Friends’ Central Upper School (grades 9-12) offers introductory and advanced Computer Science (Python), Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Hardware. Across the curriculum, students develop skills in computing and data analysis: in digital art, math and statistics, science, and the humanities where students learn to analyze authors’ strategic use of data. Students also learn to present data in clear and compelling ways. Each spring, the Advanced Biology II class, Designing Experiments in Molecular Biology, presents its data to the selective Annenberg High School Science Symposium. Students on the Upper School robotics team, based in the CID, compete at national competitions. 

Experiential and Contextual Learning 

The Friends’ Central classroom emphasizes advanced levels of critical and conceptual thinking; both independent and collaborative projects often require significant original research. Experiential and contextual learning add depth and relevance to academic discourse. The school provides many opportunities for experiential learning, within and outside the campuses, and the Audrie Gardham Ulmer ’37 Center for Innovation and Design is a prime example of such a space on campus. 

About Friends’ Central 

Founded in 1845, Friends’ Central School is a Quaker, co-educational college preparatory school for students in nursery to grade 12. Our easily accessible Middle and Upper School campus is set on 28 beautiful acres on City Avenue in Wynnewood, PA. Meanwhile, located on Old Gulph Road, students in nursery through grade 5 are on our idyllic 18-acre Lower School campus. 

For more information on Friends’ Central School please visit