May 15, 2015

Challenger Learning Center Opens at miSci

Schenectady, N.Y. — The region’s science center is expanding its offerings again – adding missions to space – as miSci, the Museum of Innovation and Science, opens the Challenger Learning Center, a hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experience, in a completely renovated wing of the science center.

“We are excited to see the opening of the Challenger Learning Center at miSci.  miSci continues to grow as a powerful and unique educational resource for Schenectady,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy. “This attraction joins the many great Schenectady destinations such as Proctors, Schenectady Light Opera Company, and more, that draw visitors from throughout the Capital Region and beyond.”

The presence of the Challenger Learning Center at miSci, the region’s award-winning STEM resource, will draw more visitors from throughout the region, eastern Massachusetts, southern Vermont, and areas north to the Canadian border and is another sign of Schenectady’s revitalization.

“For several years, Schenectady leaders and local supporters worked tirelessly to open the doors of this local Challenger Learning Center. This type of passion and determination are characteristics of a community committed to education and the success of its students,” said Dr. Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “We are thrilled to welcome the Challenger Learning Center at miSci to our network of global Challenger Learning Centers.”

Based on NASA astronaut training, the Challenger Learning Center of the Capital Region at miSci allows participants to be part of a crew of engineers and scientists in simulated space missions in an innovative learning environment. Students become part of a team performing the mission – essential tasks that astronauts, scientists, and engineers execute for mission success. They work onboard the spacecraft to conduct critical experiments and activities and in mission control to monitor and guide the spacecraft crew.

“The Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady has been an invaluable institution in our community for more than 80 years and the new Challenger Learning Center is an exciting addition. This will be a unique learning experience that ensures the museum continues to be a regional destination for hands-on learning that is both interesting and fun for children,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “With my background in engineering, I am a proud advocate for the STEM principles promoted by the Challenger Learning Center, and I remain committed to my strong partnership with miSci as they continue to enrich the lives of families and children across the region.”

Missions rely on active teamwork, critical thinking, and inquiry-based problem solving. In addition to being a refreshing departure from classroom lessons, missions are Standards, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core aligned.

“Capital Region BOCES is pleased to be a partner in the Challenger Learning Center at miSci.  We see the CLC as a tremendous opportunity to bring STEM education to children of all ages in a highly engaging, project-based learning format. The more we can expose the students to STEM at an early age, the more opportunity they will have to follow an education path toward more STEM classes and hopefully a STEM career,” said Charles S. Dedrick, Ed. D., CEO and district superintendent, Capital Region BOCES.

The first school missions begin May 18 with a class of sixth grade students from Lincoln Elementary School in Schenectady.  Before the end of the school year, sixth grade students from all schools in the Schenectady City School District will visit miSci for a Challenger Learning Center mission, a planetarium show, and more STEM-related activities with a chance to explore all of the science center’s interactive exhibits. Funding for the district’s sixth grade student Challenger Learning Center missions has been provided in part by a $125,000 grant from The Schenectady Foundation.

“We are pleased and excited about the launch of the Challenger Learning Center, especially since it is right here in our backyard.  This presents a great opportunity for our students as it provides additional exposure to science, technology, engineering and math and provides unique opportunities for teaching and learning.  We are extremely grateful that Schenectady students have the opportunity to participate in this exciting program,” said Larry Spring, superintendent of the Schenectady City School District.

Opening the Challenger Learning Center is the most recent move for the region’s dynamic science center. This initiative follows a recent planetarium renovation involving new seats and carpeting and a new projector that provides a more immersive experience and precedes the installation next month of “Earth Exposed: Discover Our Planet’s Hidden Secrets” from San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

The new Challenger Learning Center occupies 2,500 square feet and is comprised of four distinct areas: a briefing room, mission control, a transporter, and a space station. The Challenger Learning Center board established a connection with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture Associate Dean Mark Mistur to design the project; community philanthropist and miSci benefactor Neil Golub established a partnership between miSci and Rensselaer School of Architecture. Construction, which started in December 2014, was completed by Duncan and Cahill, Inc. of Troy.

 “As the region’s preeminent science center, miSci is proud to add the Challenger Learning Center of the Capital Region and simulated space missions to our existing high quality STEM programming,” said miSci President Dr. Mac Sudduth. “We follow in the footsteps of the brave astronauts of the Challenger as we work every day to inspire Capital Region students and get them to dream of bigger things for themselves and the world around us.  The community leaders who brought the CLC to fruition – especially the Golub and Apkarian families – should be applauded for leading the way to bring the CLC to miSci and for helping many future generations have these opportunities.”

The Challenger Learning Center was completed under the direction of Sudduth, through the dedication of the Challenger Learning Center of the Greater Capital Region Board of Directors and miSci Board of Trustees, and through the leadership and generosity Golub, executive chairman of the board, Price Chopper Supermarkets.

 “Jane and I are delighted to see the Challenger Learning Center come to fruition at miSci.  It has been a long time coming but we have made Schenectady a center for STEM education for students throughout Upstate New York and beyond.  miSci and CLC are another cornerstone piece in the revitalization of Schenectady and we’re proud to have played a part in this really neat achievement,” said Golub.

Major funders for the Challenger Learning Center include Neil and Jane Golub, The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, Betty and David Apkarian and Friends, The Schenectady Foundation, George Hearst and the Times Union, Fenimore Asset Management, and the Wright Family Foundation.

“Congratulations to Neil Golub and the team at miSci on the opening of the Challenger Learning Center. This will be a great new attraction in downtown Schenectady,” said Ray Gillen, chair of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.

“The Apkarian family, in honor of Harry Apkarian, is pleased to support the Challenger Learning Center,” said David and Betty and Apkarian.  “This center will be a vital part of educating our youth for the future.  Harry was very passionate about technology, education and Schenectady.  This center is an important representation of Harry’s passions and we are honored to be part of it.”

Additional support was provided by the New York State Senate through the efforts of Senator Hugh T. Farley and through a consolidated funding application grant from the State of New York.

Farley said, “I was pleased to be an early supporter of the effort to bring a Challenger Learning Center to Schenectady, and was able to obtain two state grants to help secure the necessary charter and undertake the necessary plans and studies.  The Challenger Learning Center will offer a valuable and exciting learning experience for children.  It will be a tremendous asset to Schenectady and the Capital Region, and it will also supplement and enhance the Museum of Innovation and Science, which is a treasured institution in the region.”

Missions at miSci are available for pre-kindergarten to college age students. Additionally, missions are also available for community groups, work teams, scout troops, birthday celebrations, or as part of a camp-in or other private party or team-building event. To book a mission, call (518) 382-7890, ext. 237.


About miSci

Founded in 1934, miSci is the only science center in Tech Valley offering a multimedia experience for visitors of all ages and serves school children from northeastern New York, western Massachusetts, and southern Vermont.

In 2012, miSci entered into a partnership program with the San Francisco-based Exploratorium’s ExNET (Exploratorium Network for Exhibit-Based Teaching) program, miSci receives a different group of hands-on, exploratory-rich exhibits each year for five years, as well as access to the Exploratorium resources to advance each partner’s work in specific areas such as education, inquiry, science engagement, and exhibit development. The Suits-Bueche Planetarium at miSci houses the only GOTO Star Projector in the northeast and is an official NASA Space Place. miSci’s Archives include an extensive GE Photograph collection, with more than 1.6 million prints and negatives; an archival collection with more than 3,500 cubic feet of historic materials; and more than 15,000 objects relating to the history of science and technology. miSci’s Archives houses an 1878 Edison tinfoil, the second oldest documented Edison tinfoil recording, the oldest playable American voice. miSci offers Science Zone, with weekly hands-on activities and challenges; Saturday Science Zone activities are sponsored by National Grid. For more information, visit

About Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center)

As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center and its international network of Challenger Learning Centers use space simulations to engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities. These experiences strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Centers reach hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers each year. Founded in 1986, Challenger Center was created to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L: Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith. Learn more about Challenger Center at  and connect with us on, and