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Lancaster Science Factory plans capital campaign, expansion next year


Liam Yoder, left, and Jacob Smoker work with an Edison Programmable Robot during a demonstration at Lancaster Science Factory Monday July 10, 2017. BLAINE SHAHAN | Staff Photographer  

So the institution is planning to expand at its location in the 400 block of New Holland Avenue.

The plan has been in development for about three years, Landis said.

Components include a new wing for exhibits and a “Maker Space”-style classroom. Totaling about 4,300 square feet, they will go into a vacant section of the large building — the former home of the Kerr Glass Factory —that the Science Factory shares with several other tenants. The organization has signed a lease for the additional space, Landis said.

At the back of the building, an Outdoor Exploration Patio of about 3,000 square feet will showcase exhibits on green energy sources such as solar and wind.

The existing Hall of Science will be updated, too.

One of the more prominent new exhibits will be the “Sky Bridge,” which Landis describes as “a climbable structure inspired by the engineering principles of bridges.”

She believes it will become a signature attraction, like the popular Giant Heart at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

This week, the Science Factory announced a $100,000 donation from PPL to fund another exhibit that will be part of the expansion: The Sustainable Energy Floor.

When people step on it, LEDs will light up and a wall-mounted energy meter will charge.

“Advanced software connected to the floor makes it possible to play educational games, combining the output of data and energy with the movement of visitors,” PPL and the Science Factory explained in a statement.

PPL’s support of the Science Factory predates its opening. The utility sponsors the Free First Friday for Families program, which allows the Science Factory to offer free admission from 5 to 8 p.m. the first Friday of each month.

“We couldn’t be more excited to help the Science Factory with their expansion,” PPL Regional Affairs Director Jess Baker said.

The Science Factory bills itself as “a hands-on, interactive learning center” for children in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.

Its 12,000 square feet house more than 60 exhibits and work stations. A little more than half its visitors come from Lancaster County, and another third or so from surrounding counties.

Besides field trips, it hosts numerous classes, camps and other activities, all focusing on STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The expansion project, Landis said, “is driven by the strong demand for STEM education in the community.”

Building interest and skills in STEM gives children options for their future and bolsters the local work force and economy.

Ronnie Medlock is vice president of technical services at the local steel fabrication firm High Steel Structures and serves on the Science Factory’s board.

High sponsors an annual summer camp called “Bridge Mania” at the Science Factory. Participants learn about arches, experiment with building bridges and try out welding. They love donning the heavy protective welding gear, Medlock said.

Down the road, those interests can lead to rewarding and well-paid careers. High is continually looking to fill STEM-related positions at all levels, Medlock said, and “getting qualified people is a challenge.”

Once the expansion is finished, the Science Factory expects to draw 60,000 visitors a year or more, Landis said.

It’s estimated the project will cost several million dollars; organizers plan to launch a capital campaign, “Elevate Curiosity,” in April. Construction is expected to start by the end of 2018.

Via @ LancasterOnline

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