Our Towns

Debt Retirement Positions Oh Wow! for Bright Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The retirement of its remaining debt at Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology enables the museum to prepare for its future.

During its sixth Birthday Bash Saturday, officials announced that the Liquidate the Loan campaign launched in October succeeded in eliminating the remaining balance of its startup loan. Oh Wow borrowed $776,000 to get started.

“It originally cost $2 million to construct Oh Wow, and now our capital investments exceed $2.5 million with what we’ve put into this space,” said Lisa Long, associate director.

The center, which features exhibits and activities focusing on the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – opened in May 2011.

In October, the center still owed $145,000 from the original loan.

More than 80 donors – individuals, businesses and organizations – contributed to the campaign.

“The weight of the world is off our shoulder,” remarked Bruce Sherman, vice-chairman of Oh Wow’s board and chairman of the Liquidate the Debt campaign,

“This has been our goal since we opened,” he continued. “The community stepped up and raised enough money to pay off the loan, so we are debt free and we’ll remain that way.”

Retiring the debt means that any support that comes to Oh Wow can go to building the center’s future “and making sure that this wonderful gem is here not just for our children but for our children’s children and generations to come,” Long said.

Oh Wow is nearing another milestone: as of last week, the center recorded more than 297,000 visitors, she noted.

As part of the weekend celebration, Oh Wow unveiled new exhibits. They include the Drive to Dance and Drive to Hold exhibits, which showcase how prosthetic limbs are used, in the Drive to Excel space on the lower level.

The center also revamped the windy pipes exhibit – now known as A-Mazing Airwaves – which is among Oh Wow’s most popular exhibits, Long said. With the redesign, the balls and scarves shoot farther and faster, and the tubes are now transparent.

“We’ve also lowered some of our input points so it’s accessible to more kids,” she said.

Oh Wow is reviewing all its exhibits to make sure they are meeting the center’s needs, Sherman said. “We’re also looking for new exhibits to enhance the ‘edutainment’ of our guests.”

In particular, Oh Wow is looking at its Energy Zone area as “something that we want to enhance,” given the current focus on energy topics, he noted.

But for now, “We’re taking a deep breath. We want to fine-tune the things we’re doing,” Long said. That includes bringing more schools in for field trips and making sure schools use Oh Wow as part of their curriculum throughout the academic year.

In addition, the center is focusing on teacher professional development in STEM education.

Oh Wow now has 12 employees. Long joined the center in April in her post, which was newly created. A new front desk/membership staffer will add one more to the staff.

“We’re growing quickly,” Long said.

Pictured: Lisa Long, the associate director of Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.