The fall opening of a preview center for a planned science center in the Belcamp area has been delayed until sometime in 2022, organizers said, due to unforeseen site modifications and state funding requirements that delayed renovations.
They did receive some good news, however, that about $250,000 in funding for the Discovery Center at Waters Edge, was included in the federal defense funding bill for fiscal year 2022. The House Appropriations Committee approved the $706 billion bill July 13, which is now with the full House for consideration.
U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, who represents Harford and Baltimore counties and is a member of the Appropriations committee, requested the funding. It is one of nine Community Project Funding Requests, formerly known as earmarks, that the congressman submitted this year.
The nonprofit board of the Discovery Center at Water’s Edge — formerly known as the APG Discovery Center — envisions a modern, full-scale science center with interactive exhibits, maker spaces and science-themed outdoor play areas that would attract thousands to the region and contribute to the local economy.
“This is an exciting project that puts the ground-breaking scientific exploration happening at Aberdeen Proving Ground at the fingertips of students across Maryland,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “Not only will the Discovery Center help revitalize the Route 40 corridor and spur economic growth across the region, it will get students excited about STEM fields and, hopefully, pursue much-needed STEM careers.”
Charlie Nietubicz, president of the Discovery Center’s Board of Directors said the federal funding would be “an enormously important factor for us fulfilling our vision.” The money would be used to help build out the 3,500-square-foot preview center opposite the Belcamp Post Office on Route 40 and beginning the design of the next phase of the ambitious project.
“With our location and connection to technology being developed at APG, the Discovery Center will be a place where the public can see and experience ‘tomorrow’s technology today’ as we highlight some of the new discoveries coming from our own backyard,” Nietubicz said.
The second phase calls for a 10,000-square-foot science center that would allow for hands-on displays, weekly and evening STEM-related programs and TED Talk-like presentations on the latest technology developments.
To help with the build out of the preview center, the nonprofit is working with Quatrefoil, a Laurel-based company that helps design museum and science centers.
“Together we are finalizing the building modifications and working on display/exhibit concepts design, development, and implementation,” said Joan Michel, a managing partner at Profile Partners, a consulting firm hired by the Discovery Center’s board.
Plans are under way to hire a project manager to pull all the pieces together to get the preview center opened and the organization’s board of directors will soon begin searching for an executive director, according to Michel. The board is also looking for volunteers and donations for the project.
“The goals we have in place cannot be achieved without sufficient funding and volunteers,” Michel said.
In particular, the board is looking for a volunteer to lead its heritage or history committee, “which will develop the content to tell the story of over 100 years of technology development that has happened here locally because of the mission of APG. Many of these technologies are in your home today,” Michel said.
The board launched a capital campaign in the spring and has received several significant corporate donations, including $100,000 from SURVICE Engineering. Jim Foulk, the founder of SURVICE, is also the developer of the Water’s Edge Events Center campus, where the board signed its lease to build.
The campaign also received corporate pledges of $50,000 each from Bravura Technology Systems Inc. and Energetics Technology Center, as well as donations from private individuals and organizations, and a $20,000 grant from Harford County Tourism.
While the preview center won’t be opened by September, the organization does have an event planned to help raise funds.
On Sept. 12, the Discovery Car Show and Shine featuring classic vehicles will be held in the parking lot of the Water’s Edge Corporate Campus to benefit the center. The Classic Car Club reached out to the board about putting on the show, and is currently looking for sponsors and cars to have on display.
“We are delighted to partner with them because there is so much science and technology to explore in automobiles,” Michel said. “As part of the car show, we will have a Kids Zone, where families can enjoy science activities.”
In May, the nonprofit will have a Magic of Science Fair and Festival, where thousands of families come for a day of play with science and technology.