Jim Swingle (left) and Kevin Aschenmeier are preparing for the Okanagan Science Centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

Science centre celebrates

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Okanagan Science Centre will be holding special events for all ages.

Job prospects for translating Latin and Greek did not look good for Kevin Aschenmeier 25 years ago.

A graduate student at the University of Alberta, Aschenmeier – who holds a degree in classical literature and a masters degree in classical languages – took a call from his brother, Chris, who was also living in Edmonton. Chris said he was moving to the Okanagan and asked Kevin if he wanted to come.

“That was on a Wednesday afternoon. I said ‘Sure. When are you leaving?’ He said ‘Saturday,’” said Aschenmeier, who arrived in Vernon and, because he also had a background in sciences, landed the job as science presenter at the new Okanagan Science Centre.

In 1990, the science centre was located in the basement of the old Tolko building on 30th Avenue, opening on Oct. 14. It remained there until moving to its present location, in Polson Park, in 1997.

Aschenmeier has been there all 25 years, teaching children and parents the joys, fun and mysteries of science.

“It’s gone by very fast and it’s been very enjoyable,” said Aschenmeier.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Okanagan Science Centre will be holding special events for all ages.

On Wednesday – the centre’s actual birthday – there will be a 25th anniversary reception from 2 to 4 p.m.

“Join us as we honour all the people who have contributed to the science centre over the years,” said executive director Jim Swingle, who began in December 2014.

“Get to talk to the people who made the science centre happen. See pictures from the early days. There’s free admission all day.”

Throughout October, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the centre hosts the Children’s Passport to Science.

There will be special science activities, demonstrations, and events for children all month. Get a passport and collect stamps — prizes will be given out at the end of the month for collecting 25 stamps.

The event is included with general admission and free for members.

There will also be a very special night for adults only.

Science Pub 25 will be Saturday, Oct. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Science Pub festivities will include experiments, explosions, appetizers, a wine tasting put on by Edge of the Earth Vineyard, DJ Love Bench and Littlebitzz, gyro chair rides, science-themed activities, and a cash bar featuring Edge of the Earth Vineyard and Okanagan Spirits.

Bob McDonald, host of Quirks and Quarks, will be on hand to say a few words. And at some point a block of cement will be broken on someone’s stomach with a sledge hammer while they lie on a bed of nails.

“A lot of times we’ll be here seeing families come in, the kids interact and the parents enjoy exhibits,  it’s a chance for them to play a bit, but they keep being pulled away for parenting,” said Swingle.

“We thought it would be nice for them to have fun, play with the toys here, watch Kevin’s demonstrations directly. A lot of science centres have an adult night and I think it’s a great idea”

Tickets are $25 in advance, and are available at the Okanagan Science Centre or by calling 250-545-3644.

There will also be a Mini Science Camp for children next door in Heritage Hall ($10 per child) if you want someone to watch the kids while you play at the science centre.

The Okanagan Science Centre maintains exhibits on subjects from robotics to ecosystems to astronomy — many of those exhibits designed and built in-house at the science centre.

Swingle wants to continue that vision for the next 25 years.

“We want to continue what the science centre has done so well, and bring a focus on what we’re doing here in the Okanagan in science,” he said.

“We’re always going to have travelling exhibits and things we do in-house but I’d like to shift the emphasis more to things we’re building here like the robotic clock (designed by Vernon high school student Hudson Schier, now studying robotics at university), created our own Amazon biotope exhibition, and built our own traversing wall.”


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