A community workshop aimed at creating new products and preparing Centre County residents for careers in science, technology, engineering and math has been in the works for years in Centre County. Last week, Discovery Space received a $100,000 grant from the Centre Foundation to make it happen.
Discovery Space — a science center featuring interactive exhibits and hands-on programs to promote STEM education — pitched the idea to develop Centre Makes and received the grant Thursday.
“We are honored and humbled to be selected for this grant,” Michele Crowl, executive director at Discovery Space, said in a press release. “There’s been conversations for about five years now of people trying to make a space like this, where the community can come together to use tools and share knowledge. Never before have so many of those pieces come together at once.”
For the first phase of the project beginning in 2019, said Crowl, Discovery Space will hold several classes in its current classroom and in schools across the county. Some of the grant money will also be used to purchase “transportable technologies” to take to the schools.
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While the teaching programs are happening, Discovery Space will begin renovating the 5,000 square foot garage space attached to the back of its building as a hybrid classroom-studio space. The nonprofit will outfit the space with tools that community members will be able to take a class on and then use to create things.
“When you put the things that people will make into a context, they make a lot more sense,” said Crowl. “For example, entrepreneurs may have an idea for a product but need a tool such as a drill press to create it. In our space they can do light manufacturing to prototype a number of models of their product.”
The space will also be a creative studio for artists to experiment and “create new larger art,” said Crowl.
Once the garage is renovated, Crowl said Discovery Space will offer memberships for people who want to use the space to create but want to work on their own projects instead of taking a class.
“We know that Penn State students who do not have access to the learning factory might need access to tools or space for projects or products they are working on. We hear that many students launch a company just as they are graduating from college, which means they lose access to all resources at Penn State during this critical time for their business,” she said.
Stigma prevents some students from enrolling in vocational-tech programs in high school, said Crowl. But with Centre Makes, Discovery Space plans to “showcase the usefulness of the trades and help connect job seekers to employers.”
Strawberry Fields was awarded the grant in 2017 after they proposed to develop Good Day Cafe. The coffee shop, which opened in August, is dedicated to employing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Strawberry Fields CEO Cindy Pasquinelli was on hand last week to congratulate Discovery Space.
“The $100,000 is really just the beginning,” Pasquinelli said in the release. “What came along with it was the admiration, love and respect that the Centre Foundation has nurtured and grown in this community. My hope is that Good Day Cafe will now pay it forward and support the foundation’s efforts to grow and improve our community.”