EastSide Charter broke ground on its new $25 million STEM hub Wednesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

EastSide breaks ground on $25 million community STEM hub

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

EastSide Charter broke ground on its new $25 million STEM hub Wednesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

EastSide Charter broke ground on its new $25 million STEM hub Wednesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

EastSide Charter’s new $25 million STEM hub boils down to one word: accessibility, said Chief Executive Officer Aaron Bass.

That hub was one step closer to reality Wednesday after the charter school held a groundbreaking ceremony for the 24,000-square-foot building scheduled to open in fall 2024.

“The number one industry in Delaware is STEM,” Bass said, but many students don’t know where to start if they want to be an engineer, chemist or doctor.

The hub is designed to help make those connections, in class and out.

Early last year, Chemours became EastSide’s lead donor in the venture, giving $4 million to the project.

Since then, Barclays US Consumer Bank donated $1 million, and EastSide received $3 million in federal funding and $5 million in state funds to build the hub. 

RELATED STORY: EastSide celebrates Barclays $1M donation for STEM lab

The donations go to First Community Foundation, the group that funds EastSide Charter. 

The hub will benefit far more than just the EastSide community, Bass said.

“You have the same access to the hub as you would public libraries because it is for all children and adults in Delaware,” he said. “We have people at Chemours already committed to leading ongoing classes to adults and to young people to enter into STEM careers.”

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said during the ceremony that while 52% of Delaware’s workforce are women, only 29% of them are in a STEM-related job.

Black workers make up less than 7% of the STEM workforce, and Hispanics make up less than 1% she said. 

“It starts when we’re young and with the exposure that we have today, change is common,” she said. “Today, opportunity is coming for the young men and the women in this community.”

What to expect in EastSide’s STEM hub

In addition to classes, the hub will feature a maker’s space, a 3D printing lab, computer coding labs, experimental science labs, and a music and tv studio.

“Engineering and math are all part of making music and that’s one of the things we’re looking to do,” Bass said, “DETV is one of our partners who is going to be teaching people how to do television and learning those skills in media and journalism.” 

Ideally, the STEM hub will help young folks in the Riverside community someday cure diseases, Bass said, but someone needs to be telling the world about it, which is why the DETV partnership will help build young journalists. 

EastSide also partnered with NASA, which will provide some hub programming.

Marc DiNardo, a NASA representative, said during the ceremony that when he started his career decades ago, most of the workers at the organization were old white men.

“It’s absolutely critical that children of different backgrounds and experiences become interested in engineering and science,” he said, “and in particular, we need to nurture and encourage girls and boys to consider it as a career possibility.”

More than simply having a building, Bass said, the true value of the hub is having incredible partners that are ready, willing and able to provide programming so ensure the building becomes a vehicle for STEM success.

Some of the programming that won’t be tied to children’s classes include mentoring, robotics, coding, chemistry, biology, renewable energy and Science Olympiad sessions.

“We are providing access so that parents can come at 5 p.m. on a weeknight on a Thursday,” Bass said. “They can get training and coaching, get training on working with chemicals with the help of our community partners, and get training in how to do media.”

That will all take place in the same space that their children may have been learning in hours before.

“If a student from any school in the state wants to come over, they can be in the STEM hub,” he said, “For any adult that is looking to make a career change, this is the place to go.”

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