Tech education nonprofit celebrates 20 years

Project Exploration, based in Bronzeville, has operated its West Side STEM Learning Center since 2017

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print
Show/Hide Gallery

By Michael Romain

Editor

The building at 5044 W. Harrison St. in Austin would be nondescript but for an exterior paint job that turned beige walls into a multicolored façade that's more indicative of the exploration that happens inside of the building—in one room, a seemingly infinite supply of Legos; in another, a six-foot rocket that's been shot several hundred feet into the air before parachuting back down to earth.

Project Exploration, an organization founded in 1999 on the premise that access to high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is a social justice issue, has operated its West Side STEM Learning Center inside of the building on Harrison since 2017. The organization's administrative offices are located in Bronzeville.

"We use science as a vehicle to create the ability to think critically," said Natasha Smith-Walker, Project Exploration's executive director, in a recent interview.

The organization has come a long way since 1999, Smith-Walker said. Back then, she said, very few women or minorities were involved in the sciences. Over two decades, Project Exploration has broadened its focus

"We really want to help develop a culture and the circumstances necessary for Austin or the West Side to gain access to the support and resources other communities naturally get," Smith-Walker said. "The goal is to expose kids in this community to as many types of STEM fields and access opportunities, so they continue an interest in the field."

Since the organization's been in Austin, Project Exploration has conducted summer camps and after-school programs for hundreds of Chicago Public School students in areas such as rocket science, computer coding, paleontology and biology, among others. The organization's funding has come from numerous corporate and academic philanthropic entities like Apple Education, LEGO Education and Northwestern University.

Project Exploration will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a program on Thursday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

Contact:
Email: michael@austinweeklynews.com Twitter: AustinWeeklyChi

Love the News?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Austin Weekly News and AustinWeeklyNews.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Austin Weekly News 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Austin and Garfield Park.


            
AdvertiseClassified
MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad

Latest Comments