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Challenger Opening

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

challengerIt was more of a figurative liftoff.

But with civic, community and educational leaders on hand, Texas State Technical College officials celebrated the grand opening of the Challenger Learning Center on a picturesque Monday morning at Texas State Technical College.

TSTC President Cesar Maldonado said the center is an investment in the education of the surrounding community that administrators hope fosters inspiration in the fields of study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

"This center is a symbol of our college's commitment to STEM education," Maldonado said. "Our hope is that students visit the center and leave inspired to pursue STEM careers."

The Challenger Learning Center experience will consist of a two-hour simulated space mission featuring an orbiting space station and mission control center. Missions will be aligned with curriculum used in the benchmark testing of public school students in grades kinder through 12.

TSTC System Chancellor Mike Reeser and State Rep Eddie Lucio III D-Brownsville were on hand to witness the grand opening and both applauded the effort made by TSTC to promote STEM education through the new STEM lab.

"I'm a big fan of this college and what it does to educate our community," said Lucio III, who's championed many causes for TSTC in Austin.

The Challenger Learning Center is part of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, an international not-for-profit education organization founded in April 1986 by the families of the astronauts tragically lost during the Challenger space shuttle mission.

On January 28, 1986 at 11:40 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Challenger shuttle crew of seven astronauts died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of the two solid rocket boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

The Harlingen location is part of a growing network of approximately 50 Challenger Learning Centers located throughout the world and serves groups throughout the greater South Texas region.

Challenger Learning Center Board Chair Gwen Griffin made the trip from Houston to witness the opening. Her involvement with the Challenger Learning Centers across the country is part professional and part personal.

Griffin was working at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was standing outside her office when the shuttle exploded. Her father was Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in 1986 when the Challenge exploded and members of the crew were considered "personal friends," Griffin said.

"On behalf of the families of the Challenger crew and the board of directors, I am here to say welcome to the family," Griffin said. "STEM education has never been so important. Our centers give students the opportunity to experience the thrill of discovery. The time spent at a Challenger Learning Center suspends reality for the students and leaves them wanting more."

For more information or to book tours, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenchallenger.

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