Five-year-old Benjamin Lichtenfeld slaps the big red button to begin the game. With help from his father, he reads through the directions to learn that the Lewisburg Children’s Museum needs his help to launch a satellite into space. He turns a knob to adjust his rocket’s launch trajectory and, with another smack of the big red button, blasts off. “It’s in space,” he cries, as he watches his spacecraft hurtle toward its goal, the International Space Station. “Congratulations,” the screen reads a few moments later. Benjamin has won.
Figuring out how to play the game was simple for Benjamin —“I just saw it and knew how it worked,” he says —but making it so was hardly child’s play. Throughout a yearlong design process, a team of Bucknell computer science & engineering students —Michael Hammer ’17 , Kenny Rader ’17 and Keyi Zhang ’17— struggled with the challenge of designing a hands-on educational exhibit for children.
The result was just one of several exhibits created through collaborations with Bucknell students and faculty at the new museum, which opened this fall in the former Lewisburg Area High School. In fact, nearly 300 undergraduates helped get the museum up and running, from designing exhibits to organizing fundraisers to planning for the institution’s long-term sustain- ability. “Without the support of Bucknell we couldn’t make this happen,” says Abby Gulden-Luthi ’05, M’07, the museum’s executive director.
The opening of the museum caps off a nearly two-year effort championed by Gulden-Luthi and Professor Erin Jablonski, chemical engineering. Jablonski says she wants the museum to be an asset for both the children of the Susquehanna Valley region and Bucknell, while offering new life for an important community hub that became vacant when a new high school opened in December 2016 outside of town.
“This is an anchor building, and people have lots of memories of the high school, so we want it to remain in use,” Jablonski says.
She expects the mutually beneficial ties between the museum and Bucknell to continue and that opportunities for internships, design projects, research and experiential learning will only grow in the future. Another engineering senior design team is already at work on a new exhibit.