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Guelph's very own Science Centre is in the works

Kicked off online already, the goal is to build a brick and mortar science facility for the entire community

After seeing the passion for science in the Royal City for years, science enthusiasts are taking it a step further.

The initial stages of creating Guelph’s very own science centre has been kicked off by professors at the University of Guelph along with science enthusiasts in the community.  

Their mission is clear: to have a brick and mortar science centre available for Guelph as soon as possible. So instead of driving to Toronto to see a T.rex, you would be able to see one in Guelph. 

Royal City Science, currently an online platform for community members to gather for science-related activities, was co-founded by Joanne O'Meara, physics professor at U of G and Jason Thomas (better known as Orbax), production specialist in U of G’s physics department. The incorporated not-for-profit organization was made official at the end of September. They even joined the Canadian Association of Science Centres. 

The group has a two-point approach: While they work towards getting a physical building, they’re gathering the community online on ‘The Wormhole,’ a space that will serve as a starting point where it will bring the community together to organize science programming and connect with one another.

That might include such things as  bringing STEM organizations together to promote events, engaging junior scientists and promoting science events. 

“The plan is to ultimately build a brick and mortar facility,” said O'Meara. 

“However, that's going to be some time down the road in terms of fundraising and finding a site, build and all of that, plus there's an unfortunate thing happening with the pandemic right now so even if we wanted to do all the kinds of face to face programming that we would normally be doing, we can't.”

A star-studded video helped launch the project:

Royal City Science’s plan is to have a physical science centre called ‘The Nucleus’, which will serve as a hub for informal STEM education in the community by offering a unique Guelph spin on the typical science centre experience.  

Visitors will learn about developments in different areas of science and how it relates to the world such as connecting it with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

Because it’s in its initial stages, the team wants to hear from the community to create a science centre for the community. 

“Our idea is to listen to as many voices in the community as we can and to create something that the community would be proud of,” said Orbax. 

Prior to the idea of having a science centre building in Guelph, many professors at U of G have been involved in numerous creative activities such as the annual School of Wizardry and Witchcraft event where community members celebrate their love for Harry Potter and learn about the science behind the magic with professors dressed up as Hogwarts’ teachers. 

Last year, a department of physics club in U of G broke a world record when they created the largest amount of 'elephant toothpaste' ever.

And initiatives like STEM Week at the Guelph Civic Museums connect U of G students with children in the community who are passionate about the field. 

“Everybody was doing these things individually, now we can do them all together and then to physically have a location too is the ultimate evolution of that idea,” said Orbax. “It’s the next step.”

Orbax said the goal is to have a broad spectrum of people involved in this project. He said the team has already seen a lot of interest from different disciplines.

“The group as it is now is kind of a collective of science enthusiasts and educators so it’s people who are doing the science programming right now in the community that people are going to. And we’re like we’re probably a stronger front banded together than we are as individuals trying to reach people.” 

O’Meara said the idea to create a science centre began in January.  

“I kind of made the comment like you know it's weird we have an art gallery, we have a performing art centre but we don't have a science centre in Guelph. Why is that?” said O’Meara. 

“So Orbax and I kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Well how hard could it be? Let's just try and make one.’” 

She said once they put the word out to people who shared similar interests, they ended up with a steering committee of nearly 20 people mostly from U of G but also key people from the wider community who are just as excited as they are.

“We’re incredibly lucky that Guelph has these people who are super passionate about teaching and super passionate about making science available to everybody,” said Orbax.

“It’s exciting to have all these people on board with one initiative to kind of bring together.”

Anyone who wishes to support this initiative is encouraged to reach out on the Royal City Science website.