Dr. Rob Fredell bounces around the room like it was a microgravity environment. His contagious enthusiasm for education is fueled by the energy in room. The energy is generated by hundreds of children experiencing Rob’s interactive, hands-on, anything but boring science experiments: Marshmallows and paper air planes fly through the air. Rotational inertia becomes a medium for artists. A fourth grader suits up for a spacewalk. And for a few hours on Thursday evening, January 15th, the entire universe is captured at the Ute Pass Cultural Center in Woodland Park, Colorado.
In a relatively small amount of time (and space!), Director Rob Fredell and his “flight crew” from the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado (Challenger), created a place where the families of Teller County, Colorado, could discover that the application of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is exciting. Located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Challenger (which is part of a national network of educational institutions) facilitates “highly interactive simulations of living and working environments in space” with the goal of “increasing student interest in and enthusiasm for the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies.” At Challenger, groups of students preform simulated space missions in a “first class space-based learning environment” modeled after NASA Space Centers and Space Craft.
On January 15, Challenger, utilizing mobile community outreach exhibits, presented a Free Family STEM Night at the Ute Pass Cultural Center in Woodland Park. Teller County families with elementary and secondary school students were invited to experience Challenger’s portable planetarium; explore the forces of flight with build your own foam gliders; knock down paper cup pyramids with marsh mellows launched from student designed simple machines; paint paper plates that were spun at high rpms by LEGO© robots; and put on a space suit, complete with astronaut‘s helmet, at an entertaining presentation on living in space. In addition to inviting the community to explore its innovative STEM curriculum, Challenger, a nonprofit educational organization, intended this evening as a fun way to recognize the financial support of a Teller County company: the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V).
Over the past year, based on CC&V’s support, Challenger provided “a variety of hands-on STEM programs for Teller County schools” including: Challenger Voyage to Mars Missions; a LEGO design challenge event; planetarium shows, and more. Significantly, CC&V took this opportunity to announce additional support for Challenger and Teller County Schools with the donation of an additional $10,000 in 2015. This funding will create eight Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company Discover ScholarTrips, benefitting more than 350 Teller County students and teachers with educational adventures and field trips to the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, in Colorado Springs.
Notes on photos:
Pictured are Teller County families enthusiastically learning about STEM from the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado at the Ute Pass Cultural Center, Woodland Park, Colorado, on January 15, 2015.