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NASA saves Valley museum from extinction

Saturday, July 07, 2012

A local science and space museum that was on the verge of shutting down and declaring bankruptcy is now staying open thanks to a large grant.

Paul Porter is loving learning at the Castle Science and Technology Center near Atwater. He said, "My grandma brought me here today because we wanted to have some fun, and there's some really cool things here."

This center serves about 25 thousand kids each year from 11 counties across Central California. It offers several experiments and other activities to teach students about a variety of subjects.

Eugene Wunder said, "It's just a wonderful place to bring your family, to get lost in the arts of science, history, and math."

The museum is the only one of its kind in the Valley since the Fresno Met closed in 2010. But this facility nearly suffered the same fate because of the weak economy and problems negotiating its lease with Merced County.

Amanda Hartman said, "We found ourselves in a place where we may have had to close the doors, we were contemplating filing bankruptcy."

But that all changed when the center learned recently it's getting a $372 thousand grant from NASA to keep the doors open for at least the next three years, and make some improvements.

Hartman said, "It's also allowing for several students to come here free of charge, we're going to be able to have about 250 students come through our weeklong space camps."

Students can also be teleported to a space mission simulator which is one of the areas the NASA grant will be used to improve. Here kids can get a hands-on experience in what it's like, to be on a space station.

Education Director Tom Tanioka says the funding will cover upgrades to the simulator so families can feel even closer to outer space, right here in the Valley. He said, "Hopefully it helps them appreciate science a little more, get a little more interest in science, match, engineering technology."

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merced county, atwater, merced, local, sara sandrik
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