Science Center VIZIUM - STEM as a cognitive adventure - EEZ un Norvēģijas finanšu instrumenti
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Research and Education

Science Center VIZIUM – STEM as a cognitive adventure

For the Science Center “VIZIUM”, located in Ventspils, May and June are an ambitious months, during which one of the stages of the Norway grants project “Establishment of an Innovation Center in Ventspils” will be completed – placement and testing of exhibits. Already at the end of June, every resident of Ventspils and guests of the city will be able to try and learn more from the exhibits. And on the June 18 everyone is welcome to opening event from 12.00 to 16.00 pm.

Several years ago, when a group of experts formed by the municipality traveled, inspected, obtained ideas, and evaluated several world science centers in various aspects, such as the educational factor and popularity, work began on the development of the exposition at the Ventspils Science Center. How much does it take to create exhibits that really excite and at the same time help you explore the world?

With a special emphasis on technology

The concept of the Center and the design of the exhibits had to be in line with the idea of ​​the science center, as well as respecting the special architecture of the building. “The exhibits at the Science Center have been chosen to allow the visitor to try, feel and experience new impressions that have often not even been felt in life, thus allowing a better understanding of smart technology, mathematics, physics, geography, and science, and promoting knowledge from an early age, as well as positive attitude in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics),” says Elīna Kroņkalne, Director of Ventspils Digital Center. The exhibits are both educational and interactive and will be included in education and training programmes as an important part of learning.

No shortage of challenges

“Working on the exhibits is exciting and rather challenging because building something new and unprecedented is a whole different matter than buying a ready-made solution, but it will add value in the future and we can say that our exhibits are unique,” says E. Kroņkalne. The director mentions that the most challenging zone to create was the simulator area, where the exhibits of smart technologies are high-class objects give the visitor the feeling that he has entered another world with movement, sound, and all the senses.

Ints Bērziņš, the head of the technology company Solavi, explains: “The challenges are various – the geopolitical situation, the war, the pandemic, which extremely affected our work because of delays in the supply of materials and the inability of equipment manufacturers to produce equipment on time. We had to adjust and find a balance so that everything would be done in the promised time and volume without losing quality.” In the production of the exhibits, the emphasis is on uniqueness, so a lot of work has been done to weigh what the visitor will do at each of the exhibits, how they will feel, and what information they will get from it. I. Bērziņš emphasizes another important challenge: “It was the most difficult to find a middle course, taking into account the differences in age, weight, and other parameters. So we looked for a way to make it interesting for everyone and not just as an entertainment factor, but also as a cognitive adventure.”

Educational adventure

In total, the Science Center will display more than 80 exhibits, 52 of which are funded by Norway grants. All exhibits will be in seven galleries: a healthy lifestyle, children, smart technology, physics and mathematics, geography and the world, human self-perception galleries, as well as a simulator area. “The work on supplementing the exposition will continue and additional funding will be sought in order to be able to delight the visitors of the science center with new exhibits or new content of the existing exhibits,” informs E. Kroņkalne.

For the development of additional exhibits, the project will continue to develop curricula, where a total of 20 educational programmes for children and teachers of different ages will be developed and tested, as well as 12 educational activities for families with children and for society – 6 technical workshops and 6 science shows. In these classes, visitors will be able to expand the knowledge they have acquired at school, both by exploring the exhibits and by carrying out various experiments.

To supplement educational opportunities for students, in cooperation with Ventspils University College, the Center for Young Researchers will open its doors in the summer, offering to meet inspiring scientists, gain new knowledge and experience in STEM and IT, and create the impression that science can be very interesting and understandable.

Experience of Norwegian colleagues

The Norwegian Science Center “Vilvite” shared its experience in the implementation of educational programmes to apply the acquired knowledge in conducting classes at the VIZIUM Science Center and promote the development of Latvian students’ knowledge and career choice in STEM. In April, an exchange trip to Norway took place to work together to develop activities for families.

In May, VIZIUM staff will be actively trained on various science-related topics, and experts from other science centers – AHHAA (Estonia) and Copernicus (Poland) will be involved to share their experience and provide knowledge in the development and organization of educational programmes.

Close cooperation – the key to quality and success

The general partner “Future Laboratory FUTURELAB” unites 5 companies – “DJA” (architect Didzis Jaunzems), “Solavi” (technologies), “Overly” is responsible for the production and installation of Ventspils Science Center exhibits (Programming), “AD production” (production), “Jura Podnieka studija” (multimedia, video processing). The development of the exhibits is very much a team effort and different skills are needed to produce them successfully. Collaboration is one of them.

The project “Establishment of the Innovation Center in Ventspils” will be implemented by 2023 and its total budget amount is 2,011,676 euros including Norway grants and state budget funding in the amount of 90% of eligible costs (of which 85% or 1,538,932 euros is grant funding and 15% or 271,576 euros is state budget funding) – 1,810,508 euros. Ventspils City Municipality is co-financing in the amount of 10% of eligible costs or 201 168 euros.

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