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ORAU Hosts Site Dedication for New Center for Science Education

Area Students Help ORAU “Break Ground” with a LEGO® Robot Competition

July 11, 2007

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Congressman Zach Wamp joined ORAU President Ron Townsend and other dignitaries on Tuesday, July 10, at the Pollard Auditorium in Oak Ridge in a unique event to dedicate the building site for a new national Center for Science Education (CSE) on the ORAU main campus. The event featured a special competition among area students to “break ground” using LEGO® robots they had built themselves.

Congressman Zach Wamp with winning student team in the LEGO robot competition

The "Fellowship of the Bricks" team poses with Congressman Zach Wamp after winning the LEGO® Robotics competition at the site dedication for ORAU's new Center for Science Education. Team members include Jordan Brown, Justin Brown, Jacob Cook, Jaron Cook, Kendall Hayden and Derek Vaughan, who are all homeschooled students, and Thomas Parham from Karns Middle School in Knoxville. The team is coached by Rob and Francie Brown, Steve and Marilyn Parham, and Mark and Shirley Vaughn.
High-resolution version of photo.

The CSE will house a state-of-the-art classroom for students and teachers as well as serve as the new home of ORAU’s Science Education Programs. ORAU currently manages more than 100 science education programs for DOE and 14 other federal agencies. In FY06, more than 5,000 students from 900 colleges and universities participated in ORAU-managed science education programs.

The site dedication included comments from Wamp; Townsend; Gerald Boyd, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-Oak Ridge Office Manager; and Bill Valdez, Associate Director of DOE Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. The dedication event focused on how this new center will help ORAU and DOE to advance scientific research and education and to reach out to the next generation of scientists and engineers, interesting them in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines to help keep our country globally competitive.

Addressing the students in the audience, Wamp said, “It’s about you, as to whether the U.S. will remain the most competitive nation on earth. Science and math will lead the way to the future innovations in technology.” Wamp said that the $20 million dollar-proposed CSE is ORAU’s way of putting money where its mouth is, and is providing one piece of the national solution to global competitiveness by answering the call for the need in science and education.

Townsend echoed Wamp’s sentiments, stating that ORAU and the ORAU-administered Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) are dedicated to “filling the pipeline of future scientists and engineers. The value we provide is reaching out to the entire spectrum of education, from K—12 to postdoctoral students, to provide national leadership in science and education.”

Focusing on science education and students using technology, a unique feature of the program was a LEGO® robot competition, which served as a symbolic “groundbreaking,” as teams of area public, private and homeschooled students used robots they had built to “move as much dirt” as possible within a two-minute time frame. The blue team “Fellowship of the Bricks” won the competition with 26.5 pounds of dirt moved by their robot. ORAU donated $2,500 to the Tennessee FIRST LEGO® League in honor of the “Fellowship of the Bricks” team winning the competition. See below for a list of all teams and coaches and the schools they represented.

Construction on the new Center for Science Education is scheduled to begin in August, with occupation of the building planned for December 2008. The project is projected to cost $19.7 million and will include renovations to the campus landscape, such as a new entrance from Illinois Avenue and Raccoon Road. The CSE will be located across the pond from ORAU’s Building MC-212, which was the most recent building constructed on the campus in 2004. Partners Development of Knoxville will manage the construction.

ORAU is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of 98 major research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies and private industry. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education for the U.S. Department of Energy.

LEGO® Robot Competition Teams

The Orange team, or Basement Bums, are coached by John Batcheller and Mike Bollenbacher. Student members from the Episcopal School of Knoxville are JJ Batcheller, John Bollenbacher, Wesley Orrin and Taylor Steinhoff. Team member John Valenti attends the Webb School of Knoxville.

The Purple team, Crestwood Hills “A”, are coached by Doug and Mary Wegman, and the students include homeschoolers Nolan Blevins, Matthew Peterson and Josh Wegman; Alex Brelsford from Knoxville’s West Valley Middle School; David Morse from Christian Academy of Knoxville; and Josh Penney from Paideia Academy of Knoxville.

The Red team, Crestwood Hills “B”, are also coached by Doug and Mary Wegman, and the students include homeschoolers John Morse, Joe Penney and Nathan Wegman, as well as Nick Jernigan from Paideia Academy of Knoxville.

The Blue team, Fellowship of the Bricks, are coached by Rob and Francie Brown, Steve and Marilyn Parham, and Mark and Shirley Vaughn. Students Jordan Brown, Justin Brown, Jacob Cook, Jaron Cook, Kendall Hayden and Derek Vaughan are homeschooled, and Thomas Parham attends Karns Middle School in Knoxville.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Video Clips

Zach Wamp, U.S. Representative (R-TN) Third District, emphasizes the importance of science education to U.S. global competitiveness.

Gerald Boyd, manager of Oak Ridge Operations, expresses his support for the ORAU Center for Science Education.

William Valdez, DOE Office of Science, explains the importance of science education to the development of the future DOE workforce.

Ron Townsend, ORAU President, speaks on ORAU's role in science education and on the value of ORAU's latest endeavor, the Center for Science Education.

The LEGO® competition, the highlight of the event, was a fun competition between four local student teams whose LEGO robots raced to "dig the most dirt" as part of a "symbolic groundbreaking."

Fact Sheet (pdf)

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