A new Coca-Cola Space Science Center exhibit will help young scientists’ imaginations soar

A new Coca-Cola Space Science Center exhibit will help young scientists’ imaginations soar

November 9, 2023

Image of a girl placing her hand in the display slot of a space robot figure

On Wednesday, November 8, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center launched a new exhibit to inspire aspiring young scientists to study the principles of aerospace flight and exploration. The exhibit was developed entirely in-house by the Center’s educational team, and was made possible thanks to the support of Pratt & Whitney, a global leader in the design and engineering of propulsion systems.

The interactive exhibit “Guzzle Vortex” is designed to spark conversations with young visitors about the principles of flight and space, planets orbiting other stars, and life in the universe. The suction-powered tube maze gives children the opportunity to plot the paths that the colorful fabric squares “Noulie Delights” – a name inspired by Bernoulli’s principle – will take before they are discarded at the end of their journey.

“Our newest exhibit – Guzzle Vortex – is designed specifically for our preschool and elementary-aged visitors to have fun with their families while learning about the principles of science,” said Center Director, Dr. Shawn Kroesen.

Exhibit banners provide conversation-starting prompts for center education staff, K-12 teachers, and families. Topics range from the principles of aerodynamics and interstellar travel to exoplanets and the possibility of life on other planets.

Annually, approximately 40,000 visitors from Columbus and around the world benefit from the Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s mission to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists, engineers, science educators and communicators. Most of these visitors are from elementary and middle schools — including the more than 17,000 Columbus area students who attend one of Muscogee County’s 44 elementary and middle schools.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists

While schoolchildren learn about the stars, Columbus State students pursuing degrees in science and science education are deepening their knowledge of space. In this regard, the Center is a vital resource for CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, housing astronomy courses and supporting student and faculty research. In partnership with the Department of Teacher Education, Leadership and Mentoring, the center provides future science teachers with hands-on experiences as they prepare to teach the next generation of space explorers.

The “Guzzle Vortex” exhibit is an extension of the ongoing, long-standing partnership between Pratt & Whitney and the Coca-Cola Space Science Center. The company’s support for these and other university initiatives focuses on the long-term goal of developing a highly trained, technically skilled, and competitive workforce.

“While we pursue our goals as a university, we don’t do it on our own. We do it with our partners in the community, and we have no better partner than Pratt & Whitney,” said Dr. Pat McHenry, interim provost and executive vice president. Three decades – making their expertise available to us as we develop and expand our STEM programs in computer science, earth and space science, and robotics engineering.”

Kroesen noted that the company’s influence and ongoing support can be seen throughout the center — from the ceiling where inflatable models of planets float above to the center’s central galleries where its extensive space shuttle collection is on display.

“It’s hard to look around the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and not see Pratt & Whitney’s hand at work,” he said. “They exemplify what an education-focused business-university partnership looks like, and we are grateful for how invested they are in our mission of expanding the appreciation of science and technology.”

This partnership has ranged from individual exhibition projects such as “Guzzle Vortex” to annual support of the Center’s Summer Academy for students aged 9-18. It also includes volunteer service by Columbus Motor Center employees throughout the year as they share their expertise with the center. Visitors and employees.

As with the Center, Pratt & Whitney invests in programs that develop the next generation of scientists and promote tourism and economic development in the region. With the recent $206 million expansion of the Columbus Engine Center and the more than 400 new jobs this expansion will create, Kelly Carillon, GTF operations manager from Pratt & Whitney’s Columbus Engine Center, noted the benefits of its continued collaboration with the state of Columbus.

“We partner strongly with (the Coca-Cola Space Science Center because) we need a very talented technical workforce,” Carillon explained. “(That means) intervening very early in elementary school and getting these kids interested in these careers to create our pipeline. (The Coca-Cola Space Science Center) does a really good job of reaching a broad and diverse group of students.”

Children pick up colorful pieces of fabric being brought out of the Guzzle Vortex exhibitThrough its partnership with the Muscogee School District and other groups that visit the center, about 40% of its school-age visitors fall into minority groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM careers, Cruzen confirmed. Many of these students lack access to technology at home for educational purposes – making the Center’s programs and exhibits such as “Guzzle Vortex” increase these students’ comfort levels with scientific topics crucial to developing the technically minded professionals of the future.

The center did not go far to develop “Guzzle Vortex.” Instead of purchasing an often expensive off-the-shelf exhibit, the center’s newest addition was conceived and designed in-house — created by Assistant Planetarium Director Lance Tankersley and System Director Chris Johnson. Tankersley drew on his degree in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University to design an engaging and captivating exhibition, while Johnson’s expertise in graphic design and electronics helped bring the exhibition to life.

In addition to exhibits such as “Guzzle Vortex,” the center’s 7,500 square feet of exhibition space is filled with more than 300 NASA artifacts documenting the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Its space shuttle collection is the most comprehensive of its kind in Georgia. It includes the main engine nozzle of the only space shuttle ever found outside a NASA museum or the Smithsonian Institution – and this one flew into space on nine NASA missions. The exhibit also includes four flight simulators and several interactive displays, which Kroesen noted are both very popular with school-age students.

About the Coca-Cola Space Science Center

The Coca-Cola Space Science Center has been inspiring visitors of all ages to gaze up at the stars since it opened in 1996. As Georgia’s only science center and museum facility dedicated to providing student and general visitor experiences in astronomy and space science, its exhibits, space artifacts and education programs have enhanced Science An appreciation of science and technology, as well as advanced scientific knowledge throughout our local and academic communities.

Outside of the galleries, mainstays of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s programs include the Omnisphere Theater Planetarium and the Westrock Observatory. The planetarium includes a full-dome digital projection system that often shows documentaries and constellation mapping events. WestRock Observatory is one of Georgia’s leading public observatories and home to a research-grade telescope. The center’s stargazing programs are complemented by a fleet of more than 20 portable telescopes, a portable planetarium system, a mobile program delivery truck, and a remotely controlled solar observatory.

The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is an outreach program of the university’s College of Education and Health Professions and serves as a training site for Columbus State students seeking degrees that lead to careers in science and science education. CSU graduates who served in the center’s educational program now work at NASA, Teledyne, the Planetary Science Institute, Axiom Space and Blue Origin – to name a few.

For more information about the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, visit ccssc.org.

Media contact:
Michael Tullier, APR, Executive Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing, Columbus State University, 706.507.8729, mtullier@columbusstate.edu
Wanga Ngugi, Assistant Director, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, 706.649.1486, info@ccssc.org

Related news coverage:
California State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center unveils Guzzle Vortex exhibit exhibit (November 8, 2023, WRBL-TV)

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