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Community Shows Up to Experience Challenger Learning Center

Saturday, December 21, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

ChallengerIf Stephanie Garcia’s reaction following a tour of the Challenger Learning Center is any indication of what to expect of Texas State Technical College’s new lab, look for a community to be inspired.

“Wow, I really wanst to be an astronaut now,” said Garcia, a student at Miller Jordan Middle School in San Benito. “This was really awesome.”

Garcia was joined by her three siblings and parents on the tour last week during Community Day, in which the public was invited to tour the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Lab on campus.

Stephanie’s father, Manuel, also left very impressed with the center and was happy to see something like it available to the youth in the area.

“My wife and I decided that we wanted to come see it and wanted to bring the kids,” Garcia said. “I wish we had something like this growing up. But it’s really cool how there’s a lot of hands-on learning involved. I think it really opens up their minds to different fields of study.”

Gabriel Vargas of Los Indios also made his way to the open house and brought his five-year old nephew Ofelio Pena.

“It’s a great teaching tool for the kids and great for the really young ones like my nephew to get early exposure to all this,” Vargas said.

Director of Special Projects Adan Trevino said the open house was organized in an effort to let the community “experience the center.”

“We wanted them to know what their kids are going to be learning when they come visit us,” Trevino said. “Since our grand opening, we’ve had several school districts, organizations and companies call us interested in visiting the center. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”

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.

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.

Trevino said the center is booked through March with about 95 percent of the bookings being made by school districts.

“We’re also going to offer professional development workshops,” Trevino said.

Earlier this month, with civic, community and educational leaders on hand, TSTC officials celebrated the grand opening of the Challenger Learning Center on a picturesque morning at TSTC.

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 center is located in Building B on the north end of campus and across from Valley International Airport . For more information on Challenger Learning Center Community Day or to book tours, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenchallenger.

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