SciTech celebrates brighter future as marks its 30th anniversary

By Erika Wurst For Chronicle Media

SciTech Museum is a favorite place for school field trips. It draws schools from throughout the Chicago area. (Photo courtesy of SciTech Museum)

SciTech Hands on Museum in Aurora is turning 30, and is asking the entire community to come celebrate with them.

As a present to everyone, the museum is offering free admission, free cake, performances, a dance party, obstacle courses, dunk tanks and food trucks and more from 1-6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30.

The celebration is Executive Director Arlene Hawks’ way of inviting residents to explore the past, future, and present of the 30-year-old science museum, located at 18 W. Benton St. in downtown Aurora.

Hawks took over as Executive Director of SciTech just over five years ago. She came in with a mission to improve, expand upon, and all around better the outdated establishment.

“Five years ago, it was very dark in here. The place didn’t seem to have any energy,” Hawks lamented. “I said, ‘Let’s brighten things up a bit.’ And that’s exactly what we did. And people started taking notice.”

They added exhibits and freshened up old ones. Aggressively going after grants has already paid off, said SciTech Operations Director Camille Coller.

Using grant money, Coller’s currently in the process of improving the museum’s water and bubble area, which will feature a water exhibit highlighting the Fox River.

“We’re very proud of where we’ve come,” Coller said. “Everyone who walks in here who hasn’t been here in 10 years is amazed by how different it looks.”

She said her biggest challenge is getting the ideas floating in her head to become visible ones.

“We can be more than we are today with the right kind of support,” Coller said.

SciTech Museum is a favorite place for school field trips. It draws schools from throughout the Chicago area. (Photo courtesy of SciTech Museum)

Hawks said having the community believe in SciTech’s mission will not only improve the museum, but improve the local workforce, as well.

“I would love every local STEM manufacturing firm to become a partner with us,” she said. “These kids are our future workers. If we spark this idea of STEM in young children, they will want to go into these fields.”

Having a hands-on science museum at their disposal is certainly a step in the right direction.

Field trips bring hundreds of kids from across the Chicago area to the museum every school year. Although there was a point when those, too, were becoming less frequent.

“We’re getting back a point where lots and lots of schools are attending. We have generations of parents suddenly brining their children back. That’s how you know you’re making a difference,” Coller said.

Children play at the post office display at SciTech Museum in Aurora. The museum opened up the space made the interior a brighter in the last five years. (Photo courtesy of SciTech Museum)

The fact that the city of Aurora, as well as local aldermen, are sponsoring the museum’s upcoming Birthday Bash help both Hawks and Coller feel supported in their mission to keep STEM alive in Aurora.

“This has been a labor of love, and a challenge” Hawks said of brining the museum back to life. “But the best part of going into a situation like this is accepting the challenge, moving forward, and never looking back once. I knew we could get to where we are today, and now we’re ready to move into the future.”







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