2010 Leading Edge Award Recipients

Four ASTC member organizations and one science center professional received Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards on October 2 at the 2010 ASTC Annual Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Leading Edge Award for Business Practice

Awarded to the COSI, Columbus, Ohio, for Partnering with Others @COSI: Creating a Center of Science in the Community. Tapping the extra space in its 300,000-square-foot facility, COSI shifted its business model from a stand-alone science center to a “Center of Science” rich in resident partners—such as Ohio State University, Battelle, and TechColumbus—whose work supports COSI’s mission. The enhanced model not only yields rental income from the partners, but also increased sponsorships by 27%, expanded grant income, and created a higher stature for COSI in the community. The Leading Edge Award jury was impressed by the science center’s willingness to share its new model with the field.

Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (small institution)

Omaha Children’s Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, won an “Edgie” for Construction Zone. In response to economic conditions, the Omaha Children’s Museum decided to focus on its core audience and deliver outstanding experiences with fewer dollars. In an effort to create its own blockbuster exhibition to fill a 10,000-square-foot gallery, the museum partnered with community organizations— including nine labor unions—to create Construction Zone. Volunteers contributed 5,000 hours to build the exhibition using inexpensive materials, and the new approach is working: the museum has seen an increase in attendance and member retention rates since the exhibition opened in 2010.

Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (large institution)

Awarded to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver, Colorado, and the Pacific Science Center, in Seattle, Washington.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science was recognized for Expedition Health, a 10,000-square-foot permanent health science exhibition that uses a hike up Colorado’s Mount Evans as its theme. Visitors engage in full-body, interactive exhibits, while a virtual learning companion delivers information about how the human body responds to elevation-related variables like wind chill, UV exposure, and exertion. More than 425,000 people experienced Expedition Health in its first year. ASTC member Jeff Kennedy Associates, Inc. helped create the exhibition.

The Pacific Science Center received its award for the Portal to the Public project. Portal to the Public provides tools to help museum staff and researchers create high-quality, face-to-face programs for visitors. The project’s guiding framework forms the basis for sustainable program models that bring local scientists onto the science center floor, communicating their research through conversations and specialized activities. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project involved several ASTC-member collaborators, including Institute for Learning Innovation, Explora, and the North Museum of Natural History; the result is a framework that is scalable, flexible, and appropriate for many types of organizations to adopt.

Leading Edge Award for Experienced Leadership in the Field

Awarded to Ann Fumarolo, president and CEO, Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center, Shreveport, Louisiana. Fumarolo was honored for her devotion to cultivating new leaders and aspiring professionals in the field. She demonstrated inspiring optimism and ambition for herself, her center, all of her staff, and the field of informal science education itself. The jury found her practice of actively seeking out and personally funding professional development opportunities for her staff especially notable.