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New PPG Science Pavilion fuels STEM futures for Pittsburgh kids

PPG Science Pavilion
Stephanie Hacke
June13/ 2018

Kids will now have the opportunity to analyze DNA at the Carnegie Science Center, just like detectives on “CSI.” In a new “wet lab” learning space, complete with sinks and fume hoods, they’ll isolate and replicate DNA as they become real-life investigators.

These kind of opportunities for kids are exploding at the Science Center with the opening of the $33-million, 48,000-square-foot PPG Science Pavilion. Funded in part by a $7.5-million donation from PPG and the PPG Foundation, 350 donors contributed $46 million to a fund-raising campaign launched in 2014.

PPG’s incentive for the donation?

“We are preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s technology by energizing them around STEM — science, technology, engineering and math,” said Michael McGarry PPG Chair and CEO.

“This is really a historic moment,” said Ann Metzger, co-director of the Science Center, of the biggest news since the center opened.

That focus on tomorrow’s technology — and job force — is a vital aspect of the expansion: “It’s about bringing up an entire community,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. In 10 years, he said, Pittsburgh will be a different city with jobs we can’t even imagine today.

Nine FedEx STEM Learning Labs mean a 40 percent increase in summer camps at the Carnegie Science Center. Photo by Dave Heath.

The expansion project includes the opening of nine FedEx STEM Learning Labs, which will increase the capacity for summer camps by 40 percent. The 26 new summer camps offered raises the total to 164 camps being held over 11 weeks. Camps range from “Investigating Our Environment” to “Robot Engineers” and “Space Exploration.”

“We knew if we built it, they would come,” says Jessica Lausch, senior director of visitor engagement.

The Science Center is the No. 1 destination in the city, welcoming about 500,000 visitors each year. With the added space, that number is expected to increase exponentially. In addition to the STEM Labs, the 10,000-square-foot Scaife Exhibit Gallery will host blockbuster traveling exhibitions – like “The Art of the Brick” opening June 16 – that used to bypass Pittsburgh.

The new addition includes the 4,000-square-foot Suzy Broadhurst Overlook, as well as PointView Hall, an event and conference space with breathtaking views from the top floor.

For kids, the STEM labs are a big attraction and could be the key to future science-based careers.

The FedEx STEM Learning Labs are brightly colored rooms will be used as a fun learning space for kids as well as for summer camps, birthday parties, teacher professional development and more.

Each room has a sink for hand washing. One is geared specifically for early childhood learners with tiny chairs and an adjoining bathroom for quick access. Another room is wired for technology to focus on computer skills or app-making programs. Then, there’s the room with the fridge, where lessons on food science will be explored. The “wet lab” – think high school science lab – will allow for more advanced science.

“We like to take things out of pop culture, food, sports, Kennywood, things you’re already familiar with in your everyday life and teach you the science behind it,” Lausch said.

Hannah Reynolds, 10, a rising sixth grader in the North Hills School District and a frequent summer camp attendee, had a sneak peek at the new STEM labs.

“They’re just so cool,” she said. “I really want to have camp in here.”

The new space opens up so many possibilities for the Science Center in term of educational programming.

“We have a lot of plans for what we know we’re going to do,” Lausch said. “And then we just have an open mind for all of the things that we could potentially be doing in the future.”

Stephanie Hacke

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