Volunteers dressed in white lab coats greeted more than 1,000 children Saturday morning at the unveiling of the Boy Scouts of America’s first permanent STEM Education Center and Laboratory in Massapequa.
Children and their parents, from councils as far away as western Massachusetts and New York City, packed the three floors of the building, eagerly going from classroom to classroom in search of a new science, technology, engineering or math area to explore.
Subjects such as chemistry (explained by watching chemical reactions in a bag that makes ice cream and electricity generated from lemons), forensic science (demonstrated by walking through a makeshift crime scene) and robotics are all taught by volunteers who work in those fields, said Steven Grosskopf, president of the Boy Scouts of Nassau County.
“This is my dream, this is my vision. I’ve been a Scout master myself for 18 years. I’ve got a huge troop and I know what programs kids like,” Grosskopf said. “Not every kid wants to just camp. They get excited by other things. They love technology. They’re so progressive today. How do we prepare them for tomorrow? That’s what this is all about.”
Designed for school-age children 7 years and older, the program, hosted by the Boy Scouts of America’s Theodore Roosevelt Council, at 544 Broadway, is open to all Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as students in the community who may not be Scouts.
A ribbon-cutting took place just after 10 a.m. with Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and other local elected officials.
It’s unfortunate, King said, that “we’re not competing with the rest of the world in science and technology. This is a great way to do it. Also to keep kids out of trouble and open up their minds and make them a lot smarter than we are.”
The Boy Scouts bought the building about 15 years ago. The first floor was previously used as the headquarters and the second floor was leased to tenants, Grosskopf said. The space had been converted into classrooms.
Classes will be held in each discipline for five hours on one Saturday a month and cost $25, Grosskopf said. The program is expected to expand up to four weekends a month in the next year.
Grosskopf said the center is one of the first in the nation.
“I’m hoping it explodes so much that I have to buy a trailer to put more out there and bring it to schools,” Grosskopf said. “Technology is where it’s at.”