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Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023

TIME TO GO A LITTLE MAD

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Mad Scientists’ Bash to benefit Sci-Port

Pictured on the cover are Sarah Giglio, Dr. Angelique Feaster Evans and Dan Garner. | Photo by Jeremy Hernandez

It's easy to get complacent about institutions that have been a part of the fabric of the community for a quarter of a century.

To make sure that doesn't happen to the Sci-Port Discovery Center, Dianne Clark and her team are working to celebrate their silver anniversary by updating and refurbishing the center. Part of that plan revolves around the November fundraising event they have scheduled.

Clark is CEO of the Discovery Center, and she and her marketing communication manager, Ian Summers, talked with 318 Forum about the upcoming Mad Scientists’ Bash fundraiser.

It's set for Friday, Nov. 3, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the riverfront. The Bash will feature several activities for those "mad" enough to participate.

One will be called The Curiosity Crawl, an opportunity for visitors to roam through the scientists' mad labs to experiment with science trivia, demonstrations, food and drink. Another stop will be the Frontal Lobe Probe Station. The staff says you'll learn if you are a genius or just mad. There will be the obligatory silent auction that you would be mad to skip and a Lab Coat Fashion Contest, which should be an interesting experiment in itself. For those who are mad with hunger, Scientific Grazing Stations will be provided featuring popular local chefs and restaurants. And if you are looking for adult refreshments, Chase "Beaker" Boytim will be debuting a new cocktail for the event.

The COVID-19 scare seriously reduced the center's visitor count in 2020. "We were completely closed for the whole month of April," Clark said. "Then we were able to reopen in stages. It really affected us from March until December."

In addition to the lack of patrons due to the disease, after 25 years, there are some signs of age beginning to show. "Some things get a little worn down," Summers noted. "All the proceeds of this Mad Scientists’ Bash are going to go towards upgrading our current exhibits, any kind of upgrades and repairs to our long-term permanent exhibits. Several of [the exhibits] have been here since year one."

"And there is so much that's changed in the world of technology that is interactive but more updated," Clark said. "In this world of augmented reality, people just don't want to just stand and read a sign anymore. They want something to watch. They want something to do. Our goal is to try to get some new technology in our exhibits."

Summers noted, "We are talking about signage updates, adding a QR code that goes to actual information about the exhibit. What we see on the floor is people interacting with the exhibits that aren't really familiar with what the exhibits are supposed to do, because there is no one to demo it for them."

Summers explained adding a QR code would give patrons the information they need to get the most out of an exhibit when the center was busy and staff couldn't be everywhere at once.

"Anyone and everyone is [interested in the new technology]," he added. "We have people and parents that ask us about adding new technology. We have kids. Really, there's the entire gamut. Everybody loves playing with things, mixing stuff together and making it bubble.

So really, when you ask about the augmented reality and the AI technology, it hits everybody."

Clark said the board of directors of Sci-Port developed a three-year strategic plan for updating and upgrading before covid hit, and that delayed it until now. But they didn't stop moving forward.

"We have finally reached a point where we've got the new IMAX theatre in, we've got some things that we've done, beautification of the center, and we feel like we're ready to show it off now," Clark explained. "Our goal was to make this an ongoing effort, not just a one-time thing. We've got to come up with a way to have the funds to go in and make the repairs when needed, or the upgrades. It's very expensive to go in and buy brand new exhibits, but we know that's something that we must plan for."

"We are making a huge effort with the upgrade of the Imax and bringing back adult-themed evening events. We're looking at brining things back such as 'Science on the Rocks.'"

Summers added, "We're trying to put an adult spin on some of the things we're doing here at Sci-Port. We've hired Chase Boytim to be our cocktail creator/crafter. To create a signature cocktail-mocktail at the Mad Scientists’ Bash."

What else is important for Sci-Port as it moves forward? "I think it's letting people know that we're still here and we're a viable option. We're most certainly still open. We're open Wednesday through Sunday. And we still have activities for everyone from kids to adults."

For more information about the Mad Scientists’ Bash, go to https://sci-port.org/madscientistsbash/

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