In the shadow of Autzen Stadium lies a small windowless building. You might not notice it, except for its psychedelic-style paint job. Simply driving past may pique curiosity, and going in to explore would make you one of the 30,000 visitors every year that visit the Science Factory – Children’s Museum and Exploration Dome.
Since its birth in 2002, the Science Factory has existed as a non-profit organization, excelling in its role as educator to the community about science and technology. It is supported by local businesses, foundations and individual members who continually fund the museum. Its positive nature and role in the community is obvious, as according to its website, the Science Factory has been able to double both its membership base and attendance since it began nine years ago.
Visitor Services Assistant, Emily Shelton, states that the Science Factory’s mission is “to engage, excite and inspire children toward a lifelong love of learning about science, technology and humanity.” Their focus? To provide evolving, entertaining and educational hands-on activities and exhibits to children. Shelton and the Science Factory want children to discover their own fascination and excitement in the world of science and technology.
The Science Factory is definitely more than it appears. Its main attraction revolves around the exhibit hall that contains interactive displays and hands on activities. The main exhibit continually rotates every couple of months and is currently housing the alliteration friendly, “Brain Builders Bonanza.” As well as this, they have a planetarium that is open on the weekends and they also offer other activities such as after-school programs and camps, workshops, field trips, and scholarships for youth.
Visiting the Science Factory means being addressed with a friendly smile and exuberant greeting —- and don’t think entering will be a let down after the kaleidoscope of color outside, as the interior is as explosive as the exterior. Shelton states that the Science Factory is “associated with over 350 museums worldwide” and that membership to one museum gives free entry to all. She explained that despite the Science Factory’s reputation for catering to a younger audience, there are also 21 and over events with alcohol, laser light shows and music like Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.
And everyone can expect more interesting events to come because on May 18th, the Science Factory was the recipient of a $15,000 grant from the Faye and Lucille Stewart Foundation. A Eugene news website reported that every semester, the Philanthropy and Grant-Making Seminar at the University of Oregon rewards a $15,000 grant from the Faye and Lucille Stewart Foundation to a deserving non-profit organization. To be considered eligible for the money, an organization has to be presented nominated then voted on by graduate students attending the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management. This year’s winner? The Science Factory.
Brandon Rigby, a graduate student working Management Program who wrote the original proposal for the Science Factory, “was picked as a finalist, [and] was on the team that created the presentation that ended up winning the grant.” Due to Rigby and his team’s hard work, the Science Factory is using the money to invest in a program called Girl’s Science Adventures. This program is designed to provide lab demonstrations and hands-on activities for girls aged between 10-12 years, for the purpose of inspiring girls to explore science. Rigby, along with some of his fellow classmates, “interviewed some of the staff at the SF, and then also went to one of the Girls Science Adventures activities, and that’s what [they] ended basing the ‘sales pitch’ on.”
Girl’s Science Adventures was the brainchild of the Science Factory, in collaboration with the University of Oregon’s Women in Graduate Sciences, and is now in its second year. By having the Science Factory win the grant, Rigby and his team have done a service to the Science Factory and to the greater Eugene Community. Not only will the grant money go towards expanding the program, but also towards offering scholarships to young girls from low- income families within the Eugene/Springfield area.
From inside its not-so-humble exterior, the Science Factory is doing great things, and in spite of some set backs, such as a lack of space, Rigby believes that the Science Factory “has a very dedicated staff that are committed to bringing great programs to the community.” So for now, the kaleidoscope building will keep opening the eyes of local youngsters to experience otherwise never imaginable opportunities.
Written by: Siobhan Cavan. Edited by: Reed Nelson