UPDATE: Science Central Expansion, New Science On A Sphere Theatre To Be First In Indiana

Science Central Using $500,000 Donation Toward Expansion

A half-million-dollar gift from the American Electric Power Foundation will help pave the way for Science Central’s first expansion since the kids-oriented museum opened 16 years ago, officials said today.

The $1.5 million expansion will focus on a 2,000-square-foot theater featuring a large, spherical projector screen suspended in the center of the room, Science Central Director Martin Fisher said. The “Science on a Sphere” exhibit, designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would be one of about 70 like it in the world, he said.

“You’re going to walk into a room and see what looks like a giant globe floating magically in the middle of the room,” Fisher said. “The screen is basically a movie screen that just happens to be a sphere.”

Because the sphere can perfectly mimic Planet Earth, the exhibit would enable visitors to learn hands-on about weather patterns, world population, air travel and hundreds of other topics based in hard and social sciences, Fisher said.

The theater would feature high-definition projectors and a state-of-the-art sound system, he said.

With the AEP Foundation’s $500,000 gift, Science Central has raised $1.3 million of the project’s total cost and will now move into a new fundraising stage, allowing individuals as well as corporations to put money toward the end goal, Fisher said.

Officials with AEP, which owns Indiana Michigan Power, were expected to present Science Central with a $500,000 check at a news conference this afternoon.

“It’s really a great opportunity to further promote and provide support to Science Central and instill that curiosity and love of science … in our students,” I&M community relations manager Kim Sabrosky said.

The expansion will use 2,000 square feet of unused space in Science Central, which currently takes up only about half of the 70,000-square-foot building at 1950 N. Clinton St. that once housed the old City Light utility’s main power station.

“This will be our first capital campaign, our first expansion into that raw, unused space,” Fisher said.

Science Central has gone through some financial struggles since its opening in 1995, though Fisher said the museum has seen steady growth over the last five years. He pointed to a 12 percent increase in attendance last year over 2010 and said annual attendance has averaged about 130,000 visitors.

In the late 1990s and into the new millennium, the organization at times reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual losses and was forced to trim both jobs and its budget for traveling exhibits.

Now the museum brings in two or three large traveling exhibits and adds several smaller permanent displays each year, Fisher said.

Science Central hopes to have the project finished sometime in 2013, Fisher said, although the exact timeline will depend on fundraising.

The project’s $1.5 million budget will include design, construction and equipment and training provided by NOAA, he said.

-News Sentinel

Science Central Gets $500,000 Gift For Sphere

Paul Chodak III, president and chief operating officer of Indiana Michigan Power, presented a check for $500,000 to Science Central on behalf of the American Electric Power Foundation, which is funded by American Electric Power (NYSE: ADP) and its utility operating units, including Indiana Michigan Power.

“I am very pleased to present Science Central with this gift,” said Chodak. “The AEP Foundation is proud to be an instrumental part of making Science Central the home of the first Science on a Sphere exhibit in the State of Indiana.”

Accepting the gift for Science Central was Martin Fisher, executive director. “Science Central is a unique regional resource,” said Fisher. “Thanks to the generous donation of The AEP Foundation, we will continue to build on that resource by providing visitors with a unique, high-tech exhibit that will help them to understand how science impacts their lives every day.”

The gift will be used to support the design, fabrication and installation of Science on a Sphere (SOS) at Science Central as well as provide a theater setting for the exhibit. Science on a Sphere is a dynamic, animated global display system that uses computers and video projectors to show planetary data on a six-foot diameter sphere. SOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). SOS provides individuals the ability to see and understand, in real-time, how a hurricane forms and makes landfall, or link to a live Spherecast from a museum in Hawaii to observe tsunami action, compare the geography of the Earth to Mars on the six-foot globe and understand the direct connections between world resources and the economic development of countries.

“Instilling a love and curiosity for science, technology, engineering and math in our children will pay huge dividends in their future,” said Chodak. “We are pleased to be a partner with Science Central in bringing this unique learning tool to our community and Northeast Indiana.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: Entertainment, RIver North

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