With the help of a $19,134 GE Foundation grant and more than 250 volunteer hours from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and GE Aviation employees, New Hanover County’s Cape Fear Museum opened a new space-themed learning center on November 3, 2016.
Subsequent to closing its gift store, the Museum explored options focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for the vacant space. After surveying adults and children, a community interest in outer space emerged. Designed and fabricated in-house with help from GE employees, Space Place is an interactive experience inspired by and modeled after the International Space Station—a spacecraft that orbits Earth where astronauts from around the world live and work.
Hands-on STEM interactives in Space Place include a robotic arm, microscopic experiments and a glove box challenge. Visual elements offer real-time information about the International Space Station’s location and daily operations. Visitors will also discover how astronauts sleep in space, examine the water cycle aboard the space station and engage in several rotating activities appropriate for all ages from preschoolers to adults. These experiences allude to the actual space station as a laboratory for new technologies and an observation platform for astronomical, environmental and geological research that has widespread applications on Earth. The International Space Station experience is also a stepping stone for further space exploration and the sustainability of human life in space for longer periods of time.
Cape Fear Museum Director Sheryl Mays says of the project, “In Space Place, Cape Fear Museum and GE hope to inform the public about research conducted on the International Space Station, encourage visitors to explore how that work applies to their everyday lives, and inspire generations of enthusiastic space scientists and technologists.”
“The interactive Space Place will help inspire STEM learning in our community and encourage future innovators,” said Jay Wileman, President and CEO, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. “From start to finish, putting this project together in partnership with the Cape Fear Museum has been a rewarding experience for our employees and we are excited to welcome the community to Space Place.”