Tonawanda News

Local News

August 29, 2013

Challenger Center opening in Lockport

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Tonawanda News — Participating school districts in a center’s licensed area — in this case, Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties — pay a program fee. In their classrooms, teachers roll out a center-approved, six-week mission “training” program, then students visit the CLC and use its simulators to carry out their mission. The objective could be to intercept a comet, replace a malfunctioning satellite over Earth, establish a base on the moon, or gather samples and data from Mars.

The idea behind the program is to plant a seed in young minds about the relevance of science and math in real life, Michaels said.

Presently, 39 CLCs are operated in the United States, all with permission from the national Challenger Center for Space Science Education. CLC-ONE would be the fifth such center in New York state; the others are in Airmont, Allegany, Manhattan and Rochester.

The center is going to Harrison Place after the City of Lockport got a state grant of $250,000 for capital improvements at Buildings 1 and 2 on Washburn Street last year. About $130,000 of the request was specifically for landing the CLC. The non-profit organization has to “match” the state money by an equal amount.

The city supports CLC-ONE’s siting here because of the various benefits to residents and the central business district, R. Charles Bell, city director of planning and development, said.

For local inner-city students, center organizers have pledged to run a free, academic tutoring-centered afterschool program. They’re also trying to woo the Lockport High School robotics team to relocate to the center.

CLC-ONE will run a corporate training program for area employers and operate a portable planetarium, two side businesses that promise to attract visitors to downtown year-round

Altogether, Bell said, a CLC is “a significant draw. It provides great opportunities for families with children of all ages. That’s something we need to continue to develop ... . Affiliation with NASA (a major sponsor of the national Challenger Center foundation) is good for Lockport, too.”

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