Rockville Science Center Supporters Move Forward With Project

By Contessa Crisostomo
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Organizers of the Rockville Science Center project have no money, no site to build on and no firm commitments of support, but they say they have a renewed focus on making the dream of a place that promotes the sciences come true.

Since the first of the year, the trustees and volunteers, who recently sought nonprofit status for their project, have reenergized their efforts with monthly Science Cafes.

"At the moment, we're ready and hoping not only to draw upon people who would like to be involved, but we want to build a cadre of individuals who are willing to put the sweat equity into the program and help us make it happen," said Rockville City Council member Phyllis R. Marcuccio, who serves on the science center's organizing committee.

The idea for a facility that would feature exhibits and hands-on activities began with the Rockville Consortium for Science, a group of residents whose goals include educating people in the sciences. The consortium holds the popular Rockville Science Day each spring that draws several hundred visitors.

"The concept of Science Day is what the Rockville Science Center would be like if we had one," said Robert Ekman, the consortium's president.

This year, Science Day will be April 26 at Montgomery College's Rockville campus.

The group completed a feasibility study in 2006. Members of the group, including then-Mayor Larry Giammo and Marcuccio, visited with businesses and the scientific community to see where they might find support.

The next step toward creating the Rockville Science Center is raising funds.

According to the feasibility study, building the center could cost as much as $7 million, compared with $1.5 million to renovate an existing space. The city financed the $59,300 study but said that private funding must be found to build the center.

Once the center is established, "then our goal will shift to supporting a science center," Ekman said.

The Maryland Science Center in Baltimore has given the group its tacit support.

"They have told us, 'You are primed down there in Montgomery County for a science center,' " Marcuccio said.

The second Rockville Science Cafe, held last week, featured a discussion on evolution that drew 60 to 75 people, including "hard-core academics," parents with children, teachers and retirees, organizers said. The discussion was led by Robert "Mac" West, co-author of the feasibility study completed through his company, Informal Learning Experiences.

"We definitely have an audience," Marcuccio said. "There's no question about it."

Having a science center in Rockville would complement the abundance of highly educated and science-savvy residents, science-related organizations and the county school system, West said.

"We intend to be not just Rockville's science center, but of course Montgomery County's," Ekman said.

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