Why 2017-18 just got dubbed ‘Year of the Engineer’ in Charlotte


Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts officially proclaimed this the “Year of the Engineer.” The Aug. 24 proclamation came two days before the official opening of Thinker Space on the third floor of Discovery Place Science, honoring Discovery Place’s commitment to bringing a year of engineering programs to their Uptown facility for the 2017-18 school year.

“More than anything else, we want to build a home-grown, talented pipeline for those jobs in engineering and technology in the future,” said Catherine Horne, president and CEO of Discovery Place.

To do so, Discovery Place is bringing programs to the brand-new Thinker Space lab to give local kids (and other adventurous museum guests) hands-on, real-world engineering challenges to ignite their passion for a future career in that field.

“We ask ourselves the question all the time about how do students find the pathway into engineering?” Horne said. If the classroom doesn’t provide it, Thinker Space could be a start.

This interactive maker lab is filled with workshop tables, real tools likes saws and wrenches that youths can be trained to use, and inspirational messaging all over the pillars and walls like, “Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance and facing your fears,” a quote from Gillian Anderson.

Visitors can come in and craft with items like a 3D printer, microchips and wood. Signs encourage them to proudly display their finished products on the line of shelves titled “Thinkers Gallery.”

As for the more hard-core experiences, Discovery Place plans to partner with 250 engineers to bring signature events to the space and other locations in the community.

The first event is an Engineer in Residence Workshop Sept. 2, which will be an opportunity for guests to tackle a 60-minute, hands-on engineering design challenge. The event will be repeated the first Saturday of each month through June 2018.

Second Saturdays and third Saturdays of each month will feature Engineering Takeovers (with engineers offering industry-specific experiences and information) and Think It Up Challenges (with group projects focusing on different types of engineering), respectively.

With these events and others angled toward engineering both at their facility and elsewhere in the community, Discovery Place aims to reach 250,000 people with engineering programming by June 2018.

This goal comes at a time when the U.S. Bureau of Labor expects the field of engineering to grow up to 10 percent in the coming decade, according to Discovery Place.

Engineering enthusiasts can also visit the reimagined exhibition “Think It Up” on the third floor, featuring interactive and problem-solving experiences, as well as view the new engineering IMAX film “Dream Big: Engineering Our World.”

All of these experiences open to the public Saturday, Aug. 26.

See the new IMAX Film

Showing until May 25, “Dream Big” highlights the stories of engineers pushing the limits of innovation, from the tallest buildings to underwater robots. See ticket prices and showtimes for film screenings at Discovery Place Science Uptown here.

Get crafty in Thinker Space

Follow facilitated building prompts or make your own design with provided tools on a drop-in basis. Or, visit discoveryplacescience.org for weekend workshop schedules. While there is no age limit for Thinker Space, some activities and tools are geared toward older children. Admission applies.

“Chisel a Sphere” project

Check out the Think It Up exhibit

Interact with and problem-solve your way through experiences with a laser harp, wind tubes, a fabrication station and more. Admission applies.

A glimpse of the “Think It Up” exhibit

As a sign in Thinker Space reads, “jump in and try something new.”

Photos: Katie Toussaint


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