Scobee Education Center, Challenger Learning Center to open Friday

Project features revamped planetarium, small science museum

SAN ANTONIO – The new and improved Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College is set to open its doors this Friday.

The $12 million project features a revamped planetarium, a small science museum and the newly added Challenger Learning Center.

While a journey to the stars can be experienced in the Scobee Planetarium or through a telescope on the stardeck, the Challenger Learning Center takes things even further

"The kids walk through the door and it's a different type of experience," said Robert Piercey, vice president of education for the Challenger Center for Space Science

The center, geared towards middle school-aged students, will provide field trips to remember. Students learn about the program with special curricula at their schools.

Once at the center, their trip begins in a briefing room, where students learn about the roles they'll take on during the tour.

"They know if they're going to be a geologist, work in lab or (on a) probe or be an engineer," said Piercey.

At mission control, students learn about NASA jobs on the ground. The room is designed to look like an actual, modern mission control center.

Afterward, students head to a launch room, which consists of two rows of bucket seats facing each other, much like a spacecraft launch. Meanwhile, video screens shows clips of an actual launch.

After the mock launch, students take an elevator up to a mock airlock/decontamination area.

From there, they head into a room modeled to look like a space station. The room is filled with hands-on science activities, similar to those on an actual space station.

During each mission something goes wrong, like a methane leak or oxygen shortage. Students have to solve the problem using actual math and science principles.

"They start understanding that there's more out there and so they start thinking about the sciences and start thinking about how it affects them personally," said Brandon Bobisink, executive manager of the Challenger Center for Space Science

It's hoped the experience will inspire students to launch new careers in science, engineering or space exploration.

The Scobee Education Center's grand opening ceremony will take place on Friday. It includes tours of the Challenger Learning Center and free public planetarium programs.