BISBEE — The Bisbee Science Lab will hold a grand opening this weekend after two years of hard work and planning, giving children and adults alike a chance to dip their toes into the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics).
All day Friday, families can visit the lab’s location in Old Bisbee, where they can participate in a variety of hands-on activities, ranging from circuit boards to volcanoes to two virtual reality stations. Visitors interested in a more sedate experience can take in the “lens on the border” photography exhibit, said Melanie Greene, the Bisbee Science Lab project manager and director of development.
The Bisbee Science Lab at 24 Main St. is a precursor to a permanent science center, said Greene — so be sure to share your thoughts and opinions if you stop by.
“It’s open to engage the public on types of things they’d like to see in a permanent science center, and to learn about things they’d like to participate in or learn more about,” she explained. “It’s an ongoing process.”
The project, which is funded through a variety of public and private partnerships, donors, and sponsors, grew out of “three different places,” said Etta Kralovec, exhibit coordinator and an associate professor at UA South.
“One was the work we do at UA south in furthering STEAM teachers — that work really helped us understand the need for this in rural cochise county,” she said. “And the City of Bisbee was looking for enhancing the mine tour experience, and we worked with the statewide Rural Activation and Innovation Network, that works in rural communities around the state.”
The hope is that the science lab brings more resources to rural Cochise County as well as expands learning and research opportunities in an area rife with interesting environments and technological projects, said Greene.
“There are lots of technology and STEM-driven economic factors here, so we’re in a very unique place where there’s already a lot of science, engineering and math,” she said.
Organizers and supporters also hope the lab will serve as a place for field trips and professional development for students and teachers who might have to travel as far away as Tucson or Phoenix to access similar centers, said Kravolec.
“I think it’s important to have a resource like that everywhere, especially in Arizona where we really struggle with getting our schools funded,” she said. “We really need to support the learning of children, and this is a place in cochise county that we don’t have currently . . . so we think that’s a really important part of this work, is bringing informal STEAM opportunities to kids in Cochise County.”
Bisbee Mayor David Smith, who sits on the lab’s board, said the lab will help Bisbee connect with the many STEAM-related work and projects already underway in the area.
“We’ll be talking about astronomy and hydraulics, and geology and things like this that are very very important, and Bisbee's in a perfect position for this,” he said. “It also provides us with an opportunity for younger people to be coming here for children's activities, instead of just going to the underground mine and going to shops.
“There’s just been a lot of good people working very, very hard on this.”
The science lab itself isn’t the only element of the project kicking off this weekend: Saturday marks the first lecture in a series of “science cafes.” The talk, titled “The Next Generation of Desert Research,” will be given by UA ecologist Dr. Benjamin Wilder in the Bisbee Royale at 2 p.m. The event has limited seating, so visit the Bisbee Science Lab website to get your ticket.
And remember, if you go to the lab or the lecture, tell organizers what you are looking for in a community science center.
“It’s an experiment in progress,” said Kravolec. “When people come, we want them to tell us what they like and what they didn’t. It really is a community engagement place, and we want to hear to from everyone.”