Da Vinci Center Eyes Parkland's Space Shuttle Blake
The Da Vinci Science Center is exploring the possibility of acquiring the Parkland School District's Space Shuttle Blake.
The Da Vinci Science Center is exploring the possibility of acquiring the Parkland School District's Space Shuttle Blake, but the effort is very preliminary, said Troy A. Thrash, the center's executive director.
"It's a fantastic educational tool. It will make a great addition to what we have here," Thrash said Monday. But he added, "There's still some big challenges ahead."
The Space Shuttle Blake, docked on the grounds of Parkland's Schnecksville Elementary School, is a hands-on, mobile learning classroom made from a converted military bus. On the outside, it looks like a space shuttle, four-tenths the actual size. It has ground-to-space communication capabilities, a flight simulator and hydraulic wings.
Since its development two decades ago -- the brainchild of Parkland School District arts teacher Bob Boehmer -- the Blake has served more than 64,000 children across the Lehigh Valley who learned lessons in space exploration and science.
But Parkland is ending the Blake program this year, when Boehmer, who has coordinated the district's program, retires at the end of the school year. The program is among the cuts eyed as Parkland prepares its budget for 2012-2013.
Boehmer has been hoping Space Shuttle Blake finds a new home, especially at the Da Vinci Science Center, since he believes the program would complement the center's offerings.
"Our issue is space," Thrash said, however. "We don't have enough of it."
Thrash said the Space Shuttle Blake could not just be placed on the grounds, but would need to be under cover so that it could be protected from the elements. And that, he said, would require adding to the science center.
The center staff has talked to some foundations about the possibility of funding, but no formal proposals have been made, he said.
At Schnecksville Elementary School, the Blake is housed in a hangar bay at Schnecksville Elementary School. Adjacent to it is a multi-media “mission control” center where students work together to figure out science- and space-based problems as part of the curriculum.