Congressman Zach Wamp addresses the audience
Since its grand opening in 1995 when the UTC Challenger Learning Center became the first of its kind to be housed on a university campus, there were plans to open three classrooms to complete the original building design. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, Founding Chairman of the National Challenger Center for Space Science Education, in coordination with the Development Office at UTC, three new classrooms were funded and dedicated to U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp, The Clarence Harris Foundation and the late Dr. Bernie Benson.
“It is quite fitting today that we are dedicating these three classrooms in honor of true visionaries. The Challenger Center concept is about exploration of new ideas, and each of today’s honorees has demonstrated dedication to pursuing new ideas and them making them successful,” said UTC Chancellor Roger Brown.
Construction on the three classrooms began in January 2007.
Chancellor Roger Brown, right, congratulates
Congressman Zach WampCongressman Zach Wamp is known for his efforts to promote advancements in science and technology. Under Wamp’s leadership, the Tennessee Valley Technology Corridor has become known around the nation as home to leaders in the fields of science, technology, education, healthcare, homeland security, and energy. Both The UT SimCenter at Chattanooga and UTC College of Engineering have benefited from Wamp’s efforts to promote alternative fuel development, homeland security initiatives, and hybrid and hydrogen fueled vehicle research.
The Clarence Harris Foundation has supported student programs since the original construction of the UTC Challenger Center. Clarence and Bobbye Harris distinguished themselves in the carpet industry when they built Carriage Industries into one of the nation’s leading manufacturers. In 1994, Harris was named Distinguished Alumnus of the University and he was inducted into the UTC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame in 1999.
Dr. Bernie Benson was honored for his dedicated efforts in bringing the Challenger Center to operational status. Benson provided key university oversight to fundraising, construction, and tirelessly worked to ensure the center possessed necessary resources. His work earned him distinguished university awards. Benson served as president of the Tennessee Academy of Science and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association.
Since it originally opened, the Challenger Center has served approximately 90,000 students on a regional basis. The center supports local school systems and those from Knoxville, Nashville, Atlanta and all points in between. The number of educational programs and services the UTC Challenger Center offers has increased significantly over the years, and it now offers:
- 2-Hour “Hands-On” Science Programs
- Teacher Math/Science Professional Development Programs
- Educational Programming for grades Kindergarten through 4th Grade (the UTC Challenger Center was the first in the Challenger network of centers to develop such a program). The program, known as “Micronauts,” has been accepted for distribution on a national level.
- Each summer there are seventeen Summer Programs offered for students
- Off-site Teacher Professional Development programs…some in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and East Tennessee State University
- Off-site “Hands-On” Science Programs that can be conducted either locally or regionally.
Carolyn Rice, the niece of Clarence and Bobbye Harris
Carolyn Rice visits a Challenger Center classroom
Marilyn Benson and Chancellor Roger Brown
Marilyn Benson and daughter Janie and her family