Breaking Ground – STEAM Education Center Construction Set to Begin

The University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum is widely known as the world’s largest collection of original artworks by children’s book illustrators. On Wednesday, May 20, the Mazza Museum will break ground on the Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM Education Center with a socially distant Groundbreaking Ceremony. With the primary goal of promoting literacy and enriching the lives of all people through the art of picture books, this addition will allow the Mazza Museum to continue to enrich the lives, and further the education, of students and the community in new and unique ways. The University is taking extra precautions during this event, and will adhere to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s social distance guidelines of no more than 10 people, and invites the public to watch the ceremony virtually on the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum’s Facebook page.

Conceptual rendering courtesy of RCM Architects
With a grant awarded by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, lead gift by Joseph and Judith Conda, and several other significant gifts, the 4,000-square-foot, $1.5 million Conda STEAM Education Center will position the Museum as one of the first in the nation to blend art activities with hard sciences learning. Karen George, senior director of advancement, said that the Center will help spark creativity and imagination while encouraging visitors to work collaboratively to solve problems. George continued to say that, “visitors will be able to get a challenge, use materials, design, and create, and every experience will lead to a different outcome.”

While there are other hands-on learning labs, this one will be unique as activities will be created with artwork in mind, with a strong focus on picture books such as those found in the Mazza Museum. Benjamin Sapp, director of the Mazza Museum, said that, “art from picture books will be the foundation for every educational resource shared,” at the Conda STEAM Education Center. Other unique features of the Conda STEAM Education Center include the use of cutting-edge graphics software and other technology used by professional authors and illustrators as well as opportunities for visitors to build using the LEGO wall and interactive Rube Goldberg wall to design a chain reaction. “The excitement happens when these resources can be experimented with collectively by people of all ages!” said Sapp.

Conda STEAM Education Center Groundbreaking Ceremony shovels made from recycled parts.
Aligning with the University’s Green Campus initiative, the Conda STEAM Education Center will also focus on creative ways to recycle used goods in new and innovative ways. In a previous interview, Judith Conda stated that the Center will be “the perfect intertwining of invention, illustration, engineering, math, and art.”

When asked what types of activities visitors will be able to take part in, Heather Sensel, museum, education, and volunteer coordinator at the Mazza Museum, gave the following example:

Students who visit the Conda STEAM Education Center will be inspired to create a robot in motion through the Space Parts Challenge inspired by the picture book, Spare Parts. Students will be given a range of materials such as cardboard, bottle caps, plastic containers, rubber bands, dowel rods, and more. They will be prompted to build a robot with one moving part using these materials. All items must be used, but they may trade up to two with someone in their workgroup. They are also allowed one stop at the recycling station, a permanent area in the Conda STEAM Education Center, where students may visit for parts and pieces they may need or want to add to their creation that was not provided in their material box.

Intended to spark creativity and problem solving in participants of all ages, the Conda STEAM Education Center will be open to the community as a whole. Mazza staff have been working collaboratively with local area schools to create content and plan future class trips. There is also hope to incorporate the Center into University of Findlay course curriculums as a way to encourage cross-campus collaboration. “This type of hands on learning opens up imaginations for visitors and students of all ages,” said George. “This is significant because they are learning how to think, not what to think. By using the hands-on experience, they are able to create, innovate and problem solve. This is significant because the world is everchanging.”

Join University of Findlay President Katherine Fell, Ph.D., lead donors Joseph & Judith Conda, Board of Trustee members, Chris Ostrander and Duane Jebbett, Superintendent of Findlay City Schools, Ed Kurt, and Mazza Museum officials for a Groundbreaking Ceremony virtually on Wednesday, May 20 at 2 p.m. live on the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum’s Facebook page. Construction is expected to be completed in the winter of 2020 and Mazza staff are working towards an opening date in April 2021. In the meantime, the University would like to invite students, faculty, alumni, and to community to follow the construction journey of the Conda STEAM Education Center with a bird’s-eye-view LIVE right HERE!

For more information on the Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM Education Center or the Groundbreaking Ceremony, please contact Natasha Lancaster at lancastern@findlay.edu.