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ORAU Celebrates the Grand Opening of Center for Science Education

Jan. 29, 2009

ORAU’s Center for Science Education. Click image for high-resolution version.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Continuing to serve as a strong proponent for enhancing scientific research and the education enterprises of our nation, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) hosted a public open house to celebrate the completion of its Center for Science Education—a 73,000-square-foot facility housing an interactive, technology-rich classroom that bridges the gap between “in-the-field” research and the content currently being used in today’s classrooms.

The Center for Science Education will work to transform traditional classroom instruction by utilizing new technologies and new ways of learning to excite and cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers. It’s a concept that is critical and timely to our nation’s global competitiveness, especially considering that American students have shown to lose interest in math and science as early as middle school.

One of the Center’s strongest assets is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Almost since the inception of both organizations, ORAU and ORNL have worked together to build partnerships between the lab and universities that can help ORNL execute its research mission. During FY08, ORAU helped bring more than 1,000 students and teachers to ORNL to study and do research.

“We’re taking the research currently being conducted at one of the premier research laboratories and making it more accessible for students and teachers to incorporate in their everyday curriculum,” said ORAU Interim President and CEO Homer Fisher. “It’s an ambitious feat, but it really epitomizes what ORAU is as an organization and strengthens our commitment to DOE and ORISE. We don’t perform the research and we don’t teach the material. Instead, our role is to serve as a catalyst for collaboration among all levels of science education and scientific research.”

The new Center for Science Education also aligns with ORAU’s management of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE). The institute’s mission covers many aspects of the research and development industry, but at the core of its identity, ORISE is a national leader in science education program management.

“ORAU has done an excellent job at managing ORISE and creating a talent pool of qualified scientists and engineers,” said DOE Oak Ridge Operations Manager Gerald Boyd. “This new facility will help ORISE to continue fulfilling that mission by expanding beyond the traditional textbook and providing students and teachers with a virtual lab experience where they can discover science first hand.”

Although unable to attend the Center’s grand opening event, Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., provided a congratulatory video message in which he commended ORAU for its continued achievement in building bridges for the promotion of science education.

“We know that we need more science and math education programs connecting people in the real world with the research and the opportunities in the world of academia,” he said. And that’s why these centers are so important for our competitiveness.”

Realizing that increasing our global competitiveness first begins with providing teachers with the tools they need to excite students, the Center for Science Education classroom also features a number of other interactive technologies that help make learning more engaging. Later this year, ORAU will launch its first Extreme Classroom Makeover—a local contest, in which ORAU will outfit a middle school classroom with the latest technology and provide a year’s worth of training and support—a package estimated to be valued at $25,000.

The completion of the new Center for Science Education, which will also become home to more than 200 ORAU employees, culminates a successful revitalization effort for ORAU’s main campus, a movement first initiated by former ORAU President and CEO Dr. Ronald Townsend.

“Dr. Townsend devoted many years to ensuring that ORAU and ORISE continue to lead the way in shaping the future of Oak Ridge and strengthening our nation,” said Fisher. “The Center for Science Education will undoubtedly stand as a symbol of his legacy and remind us to always strive to offer innovative solutions to strengthen and secure America.”

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of 99 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’s Office of Science.

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).

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