More than ten years ago, a space enthusiast, president of association “Latvijas Kosmosa Industrijas Asociācija”, a candidate for the 2021 selection of European Space Agency astronauts and the author of the idea and manager of the project “Development of Innovation Centre in Cēsis” and Pauls Irbins started looking for opportunities for his idea – to create a center where everyone would have the opportunity to learn about and around space in an interesting way. As a result of many conversations with representatives of various ministries and with the support of the Cēsis county municipality, the idea of creating an innovation center emerged, the main goal of which would be to popularize STEM education through the theme of space.
“During the implementation of the project, we have come to the main direction of the future center’s activity – high-quality educational content will be learned through interactive exhibits, workshops and learning missions, which will be linked to the existing educational standard. We want to provide valuable time for school classes, families and work teams. We will offer to participate in an adventure that will reveal to the visitor that we are all part of the space already, and everyone has the opportunity to participate in the development of its research,” reveals the project leader Pauls Irbins.
The building and contents of the project center are created with an emphasis on the importance of STEM education in shaping the society of the future. P. Irbins adds: “Children are our future and a successful career in the vast field of space is possible for everyone.”
In August 2022, the team of the project “Development of Innovation Centre in Cēsis” has already made around 20 interactive stands, work is underway on the exhibits “Wall of Space History” and “Models of Space Technology”. A model of the International Space Station is planned on two floors of the building. Its frame has already been laid as part of the construction of the building.
From the activities of the educational content, most of the lessons have been developed and tested. They will be connected with the center’s exhibits and will form interesting workshops and adventure missions for the center’s visitors. The planned interest education and teacher training programmes will be completed and offered in 2023 after the center opens. In the project, two 24-hour educational camps for children have taken place, in which 40 children from all over Latvia, aged between 10 and 12 years and between 14 and 16 years, have participated.
During the school years of 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 around 20 Latvian school teams have participated in competitions organized by the European Space Agency. The Space Intelligence Center achieved high results by promoting and supporting the teams, which made it possible for one team to participate in the international competition in Italy.
Thanks to the support of Norway grants, four young people from Latvia have already had the opportunity to participate in the international space camp – European Space Camp, which has been taking place in Andoja, Norway, for 25 years.
In 2021, the project team conducted the first space Baltic conference BeSpace online. In the event, it was important to inform the public and especially senior high school students, university students and companies about projects and the latest technologies implemented in the space sphere. The space industry is developing very rapidly and since Latvia has become an official member state of the European Space Agency (ESA), Latvian scientists and businessmen have opportunities for cooperation in the European space industry. It will also contribute to the development of the research and study base of universities, as well as increase the development of the national economy in the long term.
In addition to the project’s publicity activities, we can also mention the participation in several discussions at the 2022 conversation festival LAMPA about the importance of STEM education in shaping our children, future society and the wide career opportunities in the field of space.
The last year of project implementation will be very stressful and full of challenges. In January 2023, it is planned to complete the construction of the Space Research Center building in Cēsis, Cīrulīšu street 63. The construction of the building is being implemented with the funding of the Latvian State Budget Program’s Emission Quota Auction Instrument (EKII) and the construction works are being carried out by the general company “RERE BMV”.
It is planned to complete the work on the project “Development of Innovation Centre in Cēsis” for the production of exhibits, education and publicity activities. After the building is put into operation, the center will be set up so that it will be possible to achieve the performance indicators of the project “Creating an innovation center in Cēsis” as early as next spring. It is planned to provide free visits to the center and learning of educational programmes for 250 Latvian students, as well as training of educational programmes of interest for 100 teachers. The opening of the public center is planned for the summer of 2023.
By August 2023 the team needst to create 50 interactive exhibits, 3 educational programmes, 20 educational workshops, 3 teacher training programmes, 3 children’s camps in Latvia and participation of Latvian representatives in international space camps, educational competitions for children, adventure missions for families, participation in public events, organization of Space festival, etc.
The total cost of the project is 2.15 million euros, of which 1.64 million euros is co-financing from Norway grants, 289,825 euros is co-financing from the Latvian state budget, and 214,684 euros is co-financing from the municipality of Cēsis county.
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