Proposal for a Science/Technology/Learning Space in Lompoc, California

Over the past thirty years or so, a growing number of parents, teachers and community leaders have realized the importance of hands-on and informal science education. Informal learning “by doing” is often the most effective way to gain practical skills and knowledge. Science museums have often taken the lead on providing these experiences, many dedicating their whole organization to this pursuit.
However, no such facility exists here in Lompoc, despite the efforts of some very dedicated individuals. Today, the need and desire for a local Science and Technology learning center has never been greater.
The establishment of a place to learn individually or collectively, using real tools and equipment, will go a long way toward mitigating this deficiency in the mainstream educational environment.
At maturity, the Center would have indoor and outdoor areas devoted to several aspects of creating, building and learning. A machine shop would be available for the fabrication of parts in metal, plastic and wood, by users who have been trained to safely and properly use the machines. Furniture would include benches, chairs and storage for supplies and works-in-progress. Modern equipment, such as laser cutters and 3D printers, would be purchased or built on site. Volunteers would care for and optimize the equipment, and could educate community members on their use. Outdoors there would be a teaching garden, as well as sheltered areas for larger projects.
Potential projects at the center might include:

Getting to this stage will obviously take some time, and will require the support of the community. The immediate need is for a suitable location with a secure building, utilities, storage space and some workbenches and other furnishings. An unused school building and surrounding grounds would be ideal.
The local school district (Lompoc Unified) might wish to partner with the Center, and reap the educational benefits the resulting community of hobbyists, designers, artisans, and makers would provide. The center could host school groups during part of the day. A variety of hands-on experiences could be provided, which might stimulate some students to pursue their interests. "First Principles" could be emphasized, giving kids a basis for understanding the real world. Ideally, students could visit the facility for extended periods to work on individual or group projects. Center staff and volunteers could help students with their Science Fair projects, relieving the burden from busy parents. A "drop off" arrangement could be set up, wherein the kids do science for an afternoon each week.
Local manufacturing and agricultural businesses will likely want to support this center, as it can impart economically valuable skills to their employees, and the employees' children.
I have been interested in forming a science museum / technology center for many years. My interest was first sparked when I visited The Exploratorium in San Francisco, in the early Eighties. At that time, the Exploratorium was a bit "rough around the edges", but what it lacked in signage and graphics didn't detract from the value of the exhibits. There was a ton of educational value, and the exhibits were labors of love. It was obvious that the exhibits had been designed according to the designer's personal interests.
Over the years, I have enjoyed setting up hands-on science experiences with kids. For a while I did a Saturday Science program. I've also done Junk Drawer Robotics through 4-H, and LEGO Robotics through a local educational company. This website came from some of those experiences, and the sheer fun of doing stuff!
I am hoping that I can do more of the same at my local level.
I welcome your comments and suggestions.
-Brian Rich
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Copyright © 1996-2016, Brian W. Rich Updated 08 January 2016