COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Nov. 8 is National STEM day, a time to celebrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and encourage students to pursue careers in these fields. Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a large proponent of this initiative, as they have just added a new exhibit geared towards young learners.

The center opened its doors to the public Wednesday evening for a ribbon cutting ceremony, highlighting the new “Guzzle Vortex” gallery exhibit.

The interactive exhibit is designed to spark conversations with our youth surrounding STEM studies such as aerodynamics, interstellar travel and the possibility of life on other planets.

Guzzle Vortex allows children to feed the aliens food. The food then travels through an air maze, or clear tubes. This rather complex design teaches children about aerodynamics and the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life.

We wanted to engage students at a young age with the idea that engaging in scientific or technical areas of life is fun.

Shawn Cruzen, Executive Director of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Cruzen says some of his former students have landed jobs at NASA or other professional observatories. He says introducing science literacy at a young age can make all the difference in our future STEM leaders.

I know about this because I’m speaking from my own experience. It wasn’t until I became very engaged with looking at the nighttime sky and amateur astronomy and went, ‘Hmm, can I have a career in this field?’ That’s what really changed me, to be able to say, ‘yes, I think I can do the hard mathematics. Yes, I think I can overcome the hard science concepts.’

Shawn Cruzen, Executive Director of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center

The exhibit, costing around $10,000, was made possible through donations from Pratt & Whitney, part of their nearly 30-year long partnership with the center.

The minute I walked in the door here, the first thing I thought about was my two boys, and how we start to shape their experiences as they head off into their schooling and what they wanted to want to be when they grow up. So I think this is a first step introduction into that.

Jason Kosmas , General Manager of Pratt & Whitney Columbus Engine Center

The exhibit is accessible to all learners. Cruzen says the “stay time,” or amount of time on average children interact with the exhibit, is between 30 to 45 minutes. 

The center staff experienced in museum studies and electrical and graphic design worked on the project for six months.