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UT Arlington, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History launch innovative research center

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Friday, January 10, 2014

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis, Office:817-272-3317, Cell:214-577-9094, blewis@uta.edu

News Topics: education, innovation, research, science

The University of Texas at Arlington and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History today announce the launch of the Research and Learning Center at the Fort Worth museum, a collaboration that allows scientists to engage with the public.

Marc Schwartz, education professor and director of the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education at UT Arlington, will help guide the work of the new Research and Learning Center at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

The Center opens Jan. 14, 2014 in the first-floor gallery and is a partnership between the museum and UT Arlington’s College of Education and Health Professions. It will be guided by the University’s Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education and will be the only such center in the southwest and one of five in the United States.

“This collaboration fulfills our mission to educate students, encourage learning, support faculty research and engage the community,” said Jeanne Gerlach, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “What usually unfolds in a university setting will now take place in a public setting with museum-goers as the potential subjects. Out of that interaction we hope to see unpredicted but great ideas.”

Museum President Van A. Romans said he envisions a unique process of discovery for the new Center that the community, researchers and the museum will find attractive.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with UT Arlington’s College of Education and Health Professions and its Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education,” Romans said. “Our institutions share a vision of developing an educational research program, of collaborating with other area researchers, and of giving guests the opportunities to have first-hand experiences with the processes of science.”

The Research and Learning Center will invite museum visitors to participate in short research interactions lasting no more than 15 minutes. The work will take place in a 1,200 square foot area that contains movable furnishings.

“Museum-goers will get an opportunity to experience the same thing that they would in a laboratory with a scientist carrying out his research,” said Marc Schwartz, director of the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education. “The tools may simply be a hammer and building blocks or they could include something more elaborate, but the interactions are the bases for actual research needed for the scientist to complete his study.”

The Research and Learning Center is modeled after Boston’s Living Laboratory, whose partners include the Boston Museum of Science with Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.   

Steffen Palko, a Fort Worth businessman, philanthropist, museum board member and supporter of the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education, provided start-up funding for the Research and Learning Center.

As chair of the museum’s Innovation Committee, he set out in 2009 to help the museum better foster creativity and innovativeness. He also wanted to help the museum forge stronger partnerships with area schools and universities.

“While the Dallas-Fort Worth region has several science museums and universities, it has always been a challenge to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public.” Palko said. We hope that this experience will strengthen support for researchers, strengthen science literacy and transform lives through extraordinary learning experiences.”

The Jan. 14 opening will feature Dan Popa, a UT Arlington associate professor of electrical engineering, who is researching the use of robotic technology in the treatment of children with autism. Read more about his work at www.uta.edu/news/releases/2012/07/robot-autism-popa.php.

Eventually, scientists from other area universities will be invited to conduct studies at the Research and Learning Center. Most of the research will take place during two-hour blocks on Saturdays. Some research will occur weekdays by appointment only. Read more at www.fwmsh.org/research-and-learning-center.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,300 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Total research expenditures reached almost $78 million last year. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

About the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was established in 1941 and is dedicated to lifelong learning. The museum is anchored by its rich collections and engages children and adult guests through creative, vibrant programs and exhibits interpreting science and the history of Texas and the Southwest. The current $80 million campus opened in November 2009, marking the culmination of an extensive multiyear fundraising campaign. The museum is open daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For more information about the museum, visit www.fortworthmuseum.org or call 817-255-9300.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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