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Hands On Science Center marks 25 years

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm


kali bradford


The Hands On Science Center will celebrate two important milestones this weekend.

Center officials and the public will celebrate the building’s 20th year in existence and its 25th year of being a chartered science center.

“To survive 25 years is amazing and we are very excited to celebrate with the public,” said educational director Jamie Treadwell.

“We welcome all who have been to the science center over the years to come out and celebrate with us. We also invite those who have never stopped in to come and see just what we are all about.”

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and will feature a number of activities for all ages to enjoy.

According to Treadwell, the Hands On Science Center facility was established in 1995 as a place to encourage local children’s excitement, understanding and overall interest in science and mathematics. Since then, it has more than doubled in size and continues to grow thanks to the generous contributions of local citizens and businesses.


History of the center


Above, Sonya Wiesen, left, and 3-year-old Levi Bennetts enjoy a building activity. -- Staff Photo by Chris Barstad

Above, Sonya Wiesen, left, and 3-year-old Levi Bennetts enjoy a building activity. — Staff Photo by Chris Barstad

According to founding member and longtime supporter Bill Boss, in 1988 Dr. Robert Young, John Fox, Linda Purnell and Dr. Brad Windley met with Boss to discuss ideas for supporting science activities in the local area, with the actual planning of the facility beginning a year later.

Boss added that the idea of the Hands On Science Center was presented at a Joint Society Technical meeting in 1990, with the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) providing first funding of $1,200. It was during this time that the official name Hands On Science Center was selected by the first official board of directors.

While not having an actual building, 1991 was a year of growth for HOSC with the official logo designed by Sherry Veazey Smith, along with input from John Fox that added geometric shapes.

The Visiting Wizards program was also initiated to build support and interest in the idea and John Paul West became the first official member.

By May of 1992, the wizards program had reached 130 demonstrations in 40 schools to 4,000 children. At the suggestion of Richard Raper, a formal grant application was made to TERDA (Tennessee Elk River Development Association), in May and HOSC was awarded a $40,000 grant in July. The growth of HOSC continued in 1993, when Linda Purnell was appointed director of programs, with plans to formalize the Visiting Wizards program and AEDC Federal Credit Union (now Ascend Federal Credit Union) and Motlow College signing a formal alliance with HOSC, followed by UTSI in August, 1994.

Cleveland Pneumatic, now UTC Aerospace, donated 4.32 acres on which to build the new HOSC facility. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 3, 1994 and construction of the facility by H&H Construction began in July.

The long-held idea finally became a reality in 1995. Boss reported that the Visiting Wizards program had reached 35,000 contacts through visits to schools, civic and professional gatherings and other events and HOSC joined the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

On Aug. 19, 1995, HOSC opened to the public and grew to a membership of 400, with over 3,700 visitors that year.


The center today


Today, the center has over 100 exhibits that welcome more than 100 school groups along with 2,000-plus visitors each year.

“We have schools from all over the state visit. We’ve also made over 300,000 contacts with our Visiting Wizards program,” said Boss.

Treadwell said the center is continuing to “stay on the cutting edge” of science.

“We are trying to bring our science center to the cutting edge with programs such as with our code camps,” said Treadwell. “We held our first code camp this summer and it was extremely successful. We had tremendous support from the community and it was an amazing success. We had enough for a full and half class. We also just hosted a second code camp called the ‘Girls of Code 8.8,’ which offered girls a chance to learn more about coding.  These code camps anywhere else can cost into the hundreds of dollars to attend. At the center, we offered them for free because we want to reach that niche of students who may not be able to afford it and give them the opportunity to participate and learn more about this growing technology. It seems like we have come full circle. We started out as a traveling show and now we will be going back on the road with our code camps.”

The center also stays focused on rotating its many exhibits.

“We rotate exhibits in and out and change them on a regular basis. But there are some exhibits that folks really love and want to stay around,” she said. “It’s also important to point out that the exhibits can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. So donations from individuals, groups and businesses are greatly appreciated and needed.”

Those wanting to learn more about the science center and its impact on the community can do so on Saturday during the center’s celebration.

“We will have some exhibits from NASA, along with other fun games and events that everyone can enjoy,” said Treadwell. “For anyone who wants to know more about what is going on here at the center, Saturday is a great time to do so. We will also be giving away tickets to our Science of Wine and Beer event that will be taking place in October.”

The Science of Wine and Beer will be held Saturday, Oct. 10 at the center.

“We will have a number of local breweries on hand, along with local wineries. It’s a great way for folks to enjoy some great beer and wine while supporting the science center,” said Treadwell.

The center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The center is located at 101 Mitchell Blvd. and can be reached by calling 455-8387.