SC4’s space-themed Challenger Learning Center set to open next spring | #education | #technology | #training


Have you ever wanted to go to the moon? You will have the chance to soon with St. Clair County Community College’s Challenger Learning Center, a space-themed educational experience. 

The learning center, which is set to open in spring 2022 in the college’s Experience Center, will be a simulation-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Math learning experience for all ages. Early registration is available now at challenger.sc4.edu/.

“We’re thrilled to launch this website and open registration for those interested in reserving a mission experience,” said St. Clair County Community College President Deborah Snyder in a written statement. “Our nation needs future leaders who are adept at understanding and solving the challenging problems of today and the future. The Challenger Learning Center at SC4 will help support STEM education, exploration and innovation with experiences that go far beyond an everyday field trip, outing or corporate training session.”

In Lunar Quest, the learning center’s first mission, participants will board a spacecraft and launch to the moon in search of a long-term habitat. A team of scientists and engineers stationed in mission control on earth will guide the astronauts while they use a lunar exploration rover to investigate the moon’s surface, according to the program’s website. 

Becky Gentner, the college’s vice president of administrative services, said students will take on a variety of roles with the module, including communications, engineers, astronauts, biologists, geologists and medical personnel. 

Lunar Quest meets national science standards for grades five through eight, however, the program is scalable and open to learners of all ages, Gentner said. The program will also be available for adults, such as corporate partners searching for team-building activities or teachers looking for professional development. 

St. Clair County Community College students will have the chance to learn and volunteer in the center, fostering education opportunities for the college’s own students. 

The half-day program takes between 18 and 35 guests, while the full-day program takes between 36 and 70 guests. The half-day experience is $750 for the group and the full-day price varies depending on programming, Gentner said. 

Gentner said the project costs up to $2.3 million for its development and construction, paid for from funds set aside for special projects. Once open, the center is expected to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining, she said. 

Gentner said the center is a chance to bring STEM learning to the wider community. The center will foster an enthusiasm for STEM topics, giving students the skills needed for future careers in in-demand fields. 

“It’s all a part of a STEM education path,” she said. “If we can get students excited about STEM topics and STEM career paths we can really begin to ignite potential within those students.”

The center will also promote the college as a hub for STEM learning in southeast Michigan and expose students to options in higher education. The center is one of 40 across the nation and the only of its kind in Michigan, Gentner said. 

“For the college, it’s an exciting opportunity for us to solidify ourselves as a center for STEM education in our region and really further our commitment and dedication to STEM literacy for all students,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to provide something that was previously unavailable in southeast Michigan.”

The center is a partnership with the Challenger Center, a STEM education nonprofit founded in 1986 in the aftermath of the Challenger accident by the victims’ families, and in collaboration with Unity in Learning, which includes the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, the Leslie Science & Nature Center and the Yankee Air Museum. The center’s partners will help draw participants from all regions of southeast Michigan, Gentner said. 

The learning center will also host Galaxy Quest STEM Summer Camp next summer. The day camp will combine hands-on science and nature fun, giving campers the chance to engage in science experiments, nature exploration, wildlife encounters and immersive space simulations. 

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or lfitzgeral@gannett.com.



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