OGDEN — Students and faculty at Mound Fort Junior High in Ogden School District will have a new facility to support project-based learning this year.

Called the Mound Fort Innovation Center, the facility cost just under $4 million and will likely be on budget, though costs are still in the process of being finalized, according to Jer Bates, director of communications for Ogden School District. The center was paid for out of the district’s capital finance budget, which is part of the district’s regular funding and not connected to a bond.

In the common area of the new addition, the tables for collaboration, polished concrete floors and exposed electrical and plumbing in the ceiling — all color coded by function — make it feel more like you’re walking into the office of a Silicon Slopes company than a junior high.

The center will house engineering, design and modeling, video production, and robotics courses, all taught by Robert Stettler, who had input on the facility’s design.

His new classrooms will feature a lab of Mac computers, and several large-screen TVs that can be used for instruction. Adjoining the lab, there is a classroom with work tables for collaboration where students can make their designs a reality, called a “maker space.”

There are two other classrooms with a similar design to the “maker space,” and one of them will be available for any teacher in the school to schedule and use.

The common area space is also multi-purpose and could be used for anything from building projects to displaying art.

“The effect in my class will just be the new technology we have in this building ... but I’m more excited for what the other teachers are going to be able to use,” Stettler said. “I’ve always done project-based learning. I’ve always had the room for it and the supplies for it and the funding for it, but I’m more excited to see other teachers come in here and get out of a set classroom.”

Students, faculty, parents, Ogden City officials and Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce Spikers gathered in the center Friday afternoon to celebrate its opening with a ribbon cutting.

Facilities like the Innovation Center are not common at the junior high level, said Rich Nye, superintendent of Ogden School District. They’re much more likely to be located in high schools.

The center is “amazing,” said Wendy Graham, Parent, Teacher, Student Association president and parent at Mound Fort Junior High. “I’m excited for my kids to have access to the space for good, creative learning as well as the technology ... Design makes a big difference in learning.”

Megan Graham and Elizabeth Yetter, both students at Mound Fort, think the center is a big improvement over Stettler’s old classrooms, which they described as dark, tight spaces.

They think more students might try out Stettler’s courses now that they’ll be held at the center, which has a wall of windows that allows light to flood into the common area.

“I think it’ll make people a lot more interested in ... having a class that has to do with science and technology and everything that goes on in this building,” Megan Graham said.

“This to me is what learning should look like, as opposed to just the rows of desks,” Wendy Graham said.

The new center will allow the school to discontinue its use of portables for regular education classes, though some portables will still be used for afterschool programming and ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps).

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