Public launch April 30 at SC4
By Barb Pert Templeton
The chance to attend the opening of the first Challenger Learning Center in the state will come to St. Clair County on Saturday, April 30 with the launch of the new project at St. Clair Community College.
June Scobee Rodgers, Ph.D., founding chair of Challenger Center and widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Richard “Dick” Scobee, will be featured at the April 30 public launch. She will be joined at the event by former NASA astronauts Robert Curbeam, senior vice president of space capture at Maxar Technologies, and Dorothy (“Dottie”) Metcalf-Lindenburger, an earth scientist at Geosyntec Consultants, LCC.
“We are thrilled to welcome June, Robert, and Dottie to campus for this event, which honors the legacy of the Challenger crew and opens the door to new and exciting immersive STEM education and engagement opportunities for Michigan and Ontario residents,” said Challenger Learning Center at SC4 partners Dr. Deborah Snyder, president of St. Clair County Community College, Lance Bush, president and CEO of Challenger Center, and Mel Drumm, president and CEO of Unity in Learning (Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, the Leslie Science & Nature Center, the Yankee Air Museum and SC4) in a joint statement.
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The Center is one of 40 Challenger Learning Centers nationwide and around the world. It is a fully immersive, space-themed, STEM experience aimed at deepening understanding and appreciation of STEM careers and topics and building critical 21st-century skills. It offers a unique learning and team-building opportunities for students, educators, corporations, and community residents.
“This is a huge opportunity for our region,” said Kristen Copenhaver, Vice President of Communication and Special Projects at St. Clair County Community College.
Bringing the project to SC4
Copenhaver provided some details related to how the project took hold at the college.
In 2018 the college’s experience center with STEM-based learning opportunities opened and they welcomed a lot of guests until the pandemic shut things down in 2020, Copenhaver said.
Despite that fact, the college continued to collaborate with others seeking new avenues to introduce STEM programs including working closely with Mel Drumm, president, and CEO of Unity in Learning.
The collaboration led to discussions with the National Challenger Center which was founded in 1986 in the aftermath of the Challenger shuttle tragedy. The families of the crew came together and created Challenger Center to carry on the spirit of their loved ones and continue the Challenger crew’s educational mission.
“When students and groups visit the center, they will enjoy a 2.5-hour program where they will break out into two groups, one heading into Mission Control and one launching into space and onto the Spacecraft,” Copenhaver said. “Both are equally important to having the mission be a success.”
In both Mission Control and in the Spacecraft, the teams are working together, conducting research and experiments, gathering statistics, and monitoring things like oxygen and radiation levels for a successful mission. To get to the shuttle side visitors go through decontamination and transport
“It’s all very collaborative and they depend on each other to make the mission a success,” Copenhaver said.
Opening the center doors
The launch event on April 30 will take place in two sessions between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public, though registration is required. The event will take place throughout the Experience Center, located in the Clara E. Mackenzie Building, and also will feature opportunities to tour the Challenger Learning Center and conduct Super Sciences experiments.
“The Challenger crew’s desire to teach and inspire our children lives on in each of our Challenger Learning Centers around the globe,” Scobee Rodgers said. “We are thrilled to be welcoming St. Clair County Community College to this group of Centers and bring our inspiring STEM programs to the community. Robert, Dottie, and I look forward to being on the campus of SC4 to celebrate the grand opening!”
Challenger Learning Center at SC4 has also opened early registration for the first full space mission offering, Lunar Quest, which is available for learners in 5th grade and above.
Copenhaver said they already have spots booked for school field trip visits to the center this spring and into the next school year. The cost is $750 per mission with anywhere from 18 to 35 people in a group.
In addition, a summer camp, offered in two sessions, each a week long from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be offered for students in fifth through eighth grades July 11-15 or July 18-22. Registration is $300 until May 15 and $395 after that early registration date passes.
To register for the April 30 event, visit challenger.sc4.edu/launch-event. For more information and to book a Lunar Quest mission, visit challenger.sc4.edu.