Every middle-schooler in Hamilton County can take free lessons at the Challenger STEM Learning Center in the upcoming school year.
A new agreement allocates missions and classroom labs for sixth, seventh- and eighth-graders in the school system’s 21 middle schools. The agreement also includes all high school STEM groups, school staff and teachers.
UTC Chancellor Steven Angle and Hamilton County School Superintendent Bryan Johnson agree that the partnership is a valuable resource to assist schools and teachers to provide STEM educational field trips.
“We appreciate the partnership with UTC and it’s a shining example of what partnership opportunities provide for students,” Johnson said. “I’ve been in here a couple of times for meetings and I always see a student group.”
Angle said the Challenger STEM Learning Center offers both students and teachers the chance to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math.
“This is a great way that our university is tied to our community and our local school district,” he said.
The total value of the 550 programs provided to the school system is $290,000 and can serve up to 7,000 students and teachers, said Perry Storey, director of the center.
“The quality of Challenger Center programs is fundamental to its success; all programs are designed to meet national and local educational standard,” he said.
The center “is a major university engagement activity to help move students along the STEM educational pathway,” he added. “It’s also the first time many students are introduced to our university.”
The center has provided free programs to middle schoolers in Hamilton County for 23 years, reaching 200,000 participants.
The UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center opened in 1995 and was the first center integrated with a university campus. It is a member of the National Challenger Center Network, which consists of 45 centers located throughout the United States, as well as Great Britain, South Korea and Canada.
The centers were built as a living memorial for the crew of the Challenger Space Shuttle mission that ended in tragedy when it exploded in January 1986. Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was onboard the shuttle.
The UTC Challenger Center is formally aligned under the College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies.