Aiken's Science Hub Celebrates 30 Anniversary

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center celebrated three decades of STEM education for K-12th grade students.

"We all have an obligation to excite and engage families about STEM fields," said Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor.

"Here, young learners have the opportunity to enjoy up-close and personal interaction with real-world scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals through engaging presentations, including hands-on experiments and activities."

According to the U.S. Department of Education, "all young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow." Further, the department of education says that right now, "not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers."

The mission of the RPSEC - to infuse a love of STEM - helps the education department overcome some of those challenges.

"Our team has been doing all that here from the beginning - and the impact continues to increase each year," Jordan said.

Since its inception, the RPSEC has had more than 1.7 million program visits and has received more than $20 million in grants to run its programs from regional businesses and industry.

This past year, the RPSEC offered more than 2,000 STEM-focused programs that resulted in almost 79,000 program visits by students, teachers, parents and the public. Of those program visits, almost 59,000 were from K-12 students from 106 schools from throughout South Carolina and Georgia.

The center has had three leaders at the helm. Dr. Jeff Priest, the first director of the center, took an idea for science education and laid the foundation for the current mission and vision. When Priest moved to another role on campus, Dr. Gwen Johnson stepped up as the center's leader. Currently, the director is Dr. Gary Senn.

"While our staff and educators have committed their time and talents to the mission, the true success of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is thanks to our very generous donors, those who have sponsored presentations in the Dupont Planetarium, invested in the Bechtel Telescope, have helped upgrade our facility and equipment throughout the years, and who have donated their personal treasures, including the Fredricks Mineral Collection - even a velociraptor egg," Jordan said.

The university insists that the cooperative spirit shared among USC Aiken, local industry, public-school districts in the Central Savannah River Area, and private donors is responsible for establishing a permanent program for enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in the elementary, middle and high schools of the area.

"Thank you all again for your collective commitment to the mission of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center," Jordan said.

"We hope you will continue to support this critical work."