ST. GEORGE — Offering opportunities for hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math, the K-12 STEM Outreach Center at Dixie State University officially opened Thursday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony held in the Atwood Innovation Plaza.
The new center is housed in a former theater space in the innovation plaza, with a large open room to host events and activities and space on the renovated stage that now houses tools and technology for children of all ages to use.
Outreach coordinator Cari Heizer organized the event and oversees the operation of the new center, something she said has been in the works for years as the university and the community it serves has grown.
“We welcome kids to come in and just explore and build and then create on our 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines and more,” Heizer said. “We have after-school programs in coding, robotics and cybersecurity. We have open labs, which is a new thing with our new space. We do programs on the weekends, and we participate in community events like Science Palooza and Code Camp.”
Thursday’s event was attended by the DSU President Richard Williams, members of the board of trustees and many others in the university faculty and administration. In her opening remarks, Heizer thanked the university administration and the community members who have been involved in making the center a reality, offering thanks in particular to Eric Pedersen, dean of the DSU College of Science, Engineering and Technology.
Pedersen said he sees the outreach center as a way to get young students involved in science and technology and to prepare the next generation with the skills they will need to compete in a job market dominated by STEM careers.
The university’s unique contribution to the outreach center, besides funding and space, is the corps of active student volunteers, many of whom are pursuing degrees in engineering, mathematics and other related fields. These university students serve as mentors and coaches for the up and coming K-12 students that get involved at the center, Pedersen said.
“Anytime you give kids the opportunity to create, make or innovate in a space, their minds get excited and people get energized,” he said. “As they build skills to do it on their own, their confidence grows – both for those who are mentoring and those who are being mentored.”
The open and operational outreach center invites children to get involved and to make use of the many opportunities available at little to no cost.
“Our open lab times are free,” Heizer said. “There’s some small material costs for big projects, but small projects are free. Our after-school programs have nominal costs to pay for supplies, T-shirts and a party at the end. They usually run from $25–$50 for an eight-week program, so it’s really affordable, and we have some sponsors that pay for scholarships to help those who can’t afford it.”
More information about programs, schedules and future events can be found on the Dixie State webpage devoted to the outreach center.
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