PASCO -- Columbia Basin College's dedication to science education was honored Monday by Seattle's Pacific Science Center.
CBC President Richard Cummins accepted a commemorative Galileo thermometer, a sealed glass cylinder containing a clear liquid and a series of glass balls filled with colored liquid that rise and fall as temperatures changes.
The award was presented during the Pasco Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon by Jeff Estes, who is with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is a Pacific Science Center board member.
This is the fifth year Washington State Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER), a program of the Pacific Science Center, has recognized individuals and organizations who have promoted science education among the general public and/or the education system.
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CBC was nominated for the award, which includes $5,000, by TRIDEC, Educational Service District 123 and the state Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Foundation. This is the first time CBC has received the award.
"Only 16 individuals and 10 organizations have received the Science Education Advocate Awards prior to this year," said Estes, reading from nomination letters. "Each letter shows CBC's impact on the community and the college's commitment to make science accessible to all."
When Kennewick, Richland and Pasco school districts needed a location for Delta High School -- Washington's first public STEM school -- CBC's administration and board of directors provided the facility in return for a $1 annual fee. CBC also maintains and manages the property, Estes said.
"CBC played a key role in making Delta High School a reality in a little over two years," Estes said.
The college also makes the Moore Observatory on its Pasco campus available to the public, helps with field trips and sends staff to classrooms to bring an appreciation of astronomy to students in southeastern Washington, he said.
"More than 25,000 students and visitors have come to the facility since its dedication in 2004," Estes said. "The college is also seeking funding to build a planetarium on the campus, which will be open to students and the public."
All these projects, and more, "show just how vital CBC is in this community," he said.
Cummins said there is a strong emphasis on the four STEM subjects at the college, and he likes to add an extra M: medicine.
"Science is a huge part of our economy these days and will continue to be a big part of the Tri-Cities' and the country's future. A huge majority of jobs are in the STEM area, and we cannot afford to let our economy slide further," Cummins said.
"I appreciate the college being singled out, and I accept this in the context that CBC is part of an incredible team of community members."
Cummins said the $5,000 will go to the CBC Foundation to be used for STEM scholarships.
An award also went to Acceso a la Ciencia, a project of Washington State University in Pullman. It offers community-based bilingual programs aimed at increasing science and math literacy in Hispanic communities in Eastern Washington.
The individuals honored were Karen Rutherford, retired science resource coordinator for the Wenatchee School District; N. Jan Chalupny, a scientist with Amgen Corporation in Seattle; and Mary McClellan, science education faculty with the University of Washington-Tacoma.
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