BISBEE — “The Bisbee Science Lab is an experiment in progress,” notes a banner just inside the door of the latest addition to retail district in Old Bisbee.
It is a place where two women, who have dedicated over a year to the project, hope to put Bisbee front and center in the world of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).
At the head of the movement to grow the Bisbee Science and Exploration Research Center (BSERC) from the virtual to reality is Etta Kralovec, associate professor of teacher education at University of Arizona, and Melanie Greene, owner of M. Greene Planning and Development.
The science lab is just a precursor to the real thing. A place they say will show them if they have the support of the community and visitors, what spikes interests, what makes folks come back for more.
It is a small storefront on Main Street, but holds a world of imagination and curiosity along with children’s fun science projects — Bubble Science, Potato Clocks, Mad Lab’s make-a-ball kit, grow kits and more. Even adults might have a little fun with the experiments.
The lab also has fun T-shirts with “Experiment in Progress” printed on the front.
On Dec. 31, from 2 to 4 p.m., the lab will be open for a sneak peek at what the future holds inside the doors. It is a soft opening,with the grand opening taking place Feb. 1 and the first Science Café on Feb. 2, with times to be announced.
So far, Greene and Kralovec have raised nearly $75,000 for the lab and even more via in-kind donations. The U.S.D.A., APS, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold and the Women’s and Children’s Hope Foundation all chipped in funds to get it off the ground.
Then RYOT, a subsidiary of Verizon, gave $15,600 for virtual reality equipment. Tucson’s Flandrau Science and Planetarium donated technical assistance and help with the exhibits, as did the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2.
The city of Bisbee acts as the fiscal agent until the nonprofit is formed, and provides administrative support.
The Rural Activation and Innovation Network helped pay for the feasibility study, and provided in-kind program assistance as well.
A number of residents volunteered their time to renovate the interior, hang banners and signs, and “put the place together,” as Kralovec put it. Former Councilman Frank Davis, Sharon Stetter, Paul Enright and Ali Van-Gorp were also instrumental in getting it shipshape.
Volunteers are what are needed now, as much as funding.
Greene and Kralovec hope the lab will inspire people to come see what they can offer, and how they can help. Those familiar with social media; event planners for the Science Cafes; workers to man the store and lab, people with retail, procurement or sales experience; and people with a science background are needed. Help with graphic design and printing of large posters is also on the wish list.
“There may be ways to present science and STEAM topics we haven’t thought of,” said Greene. “We need people to lead citizen-science activities, go on outings.”
Greene noted they wanted to work with local businesses and talent as much as possible, and be as environmentally friendly as possible.
They are working with Bisbee High School and college students with the intent to have them intern there in the summer. In January, they will make a presentation to the high school with the hope some students will not only be interested in helping at the store, but willing to work with younger students as well.
Kralovec said, “The kids went crazy over building a circuit board when we had a soft opening the Friday after Thanksgiving. They had so much fun.”
Greene added, “If you come by and we’re not open, just contact me. I’ll come open up for you.”
Greene can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep up with the progress of the science lab, like the Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/pg/Bisbee-Science-Exploration-and-Research-Center-263791341080270/about/?ref=page_internal.