The Hands-On Science Center (HOSC) is now the home of 10 new Apple iPads, thanks to a generous donation from the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women in Defense.
According to Director Deb Wimberly, the group informed her a couple months ago that it had some funds available to purchase STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math equipment that it would like to give to the center.
According to its website, Women in Defense is a National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) affiliate that “engages, cultivates and advances women in all aspects of national security.”
One of the main objectives of the Tennessee Valley chapter is to encourage STEM interest in girls and women through its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative (STEMi).
In order to support STEMi, WID purchased 10 iPads and protective cases, valued at approximately $4,400, in order to support the educational mission of HOSC.
Kim Nelson, HOSC vice president and the WID STEM committee member responsible for the donation, said she and the organization “are absolutely thrilled to be able to support the important STEM work and educational opportunities that the HOSC accomplishes in our region.”
Wimberly thought perhaps adding another exhibit to the center would be a way to use the money, but then thought of another tool that she used when she was teaching in Manchester City Schools.
“iPads was the first thing that popped into my mind, because my home school classes always need them to do a little research on something,” she said.
When she was teaching, Wimberly said, all the students had iPads they could use in the classroom, and she found that technology a valuable tool to use at the center.
“I haven’t had that yet, here,” she said, so it was nice to be able to get back into the swing of things.
Having the iPads at the center will allow the students in her home school classes to learn how to research things for themselves, she said.
In addition to the researching skills students will learn, she said, the iPads also present more interactive opportunities for the current exhibits.
“There’s a lot to be learned,” she said.
“When visitors come in, we can check the iPads out from the desk and let them (the visitors) take them (the iPads) around the exhibits.”
For instance, she said, she and the center staff could link a special QR (quick response) code to each exhibit. Visitors with the iPads could then scan the code and learn more information about the exhibit, such as what principle of physics or science it corresponds to, or who donated the exhibit to the center.
Wimberly said she is in the process of looking at other museums and science centers that already utilize iPads or other tablet technology in their buildings to see what programs she may be able to use here in town.
“I definitely want to find out how they’re incorporating that (technology),” she said.
Another benefit of the iPads Wimberly noted is making the center’s weekly treasure hunts more interactive.
The treasure hunts were an idea of founder Bill Boss, she said, and involve students searching for clues around the center using trivia questions. Each question and answer leads the students to find a specific exhibit in the center, which in turn teaches them about each exhibit featured in the treasure hunt.
With the iPads, Wimberly said, the center can make the treasure hunts almost exclusively electronic — with children utilizing both the iPads and the QR codes in order to find their next clues.
Having the iPads will allow the center to synthesize the information in a child-sized package that keeps them engaged with the multitude of center exhibits, she said.
“That helps here, because we’re different than a lot of science centers in that you can just go. Sometimes kids can go from thing to thing or exhibit to exhibit, since we have so many out there, and maybe not spend a lot time with one — reading it and trying to figure out… what’s this exhibit all about.”
Between the QR codes and the wide array of educational apps that the center can use for teaching, Wimberly said she’s excited about how the iPads will change how the center operates for the future.
Erin McCullough may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.