OUR VIEW Put science on display at airport

June 9th, 2015 11:12 pm

First Posted: 8/27/2014

Would it be a good idea to …

… build a museum at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport dedicated to aviation – or something even broader?

Lackawanna County Commission Corey O’Brien pitched the notion of a flight museum at a recent meeting of the bi-county airport board, one of several suggestions he made for boosting the facility’s foot traffic and, in turn, its public profile. “It would be a way to attract people more routinely,” he said.

Certainly, people’s fascination with flight – and aviation history – seemingly knows no bounds. Witness the (relatively) recent establishment in Pennsylvania of the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, in Horsham, and the American Helicopter Museum, in West Chester.

O’Brien most likely has something more modest than those projects in mind for the airport at Avoca; he’d probably be thrilled with a vintage fighter plane, provided at little to no cost by the military, surrounded by a few hands-on exhibits. But why stop there?

What if discussions about an aviation museum – located midway between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, and easily accessible from Interstate 81 – became the impetus to finally create in Northeastern Pennsylvania a top-notch children’s science center?

A mom from Luzerne began championing such a place nearly two decades ago. She was driven by a desire to spur area children’s interests in science, technology, engineering and math – and careers that rely on an understanding of those topics – long before it was commonplace to refer to them as STEM. Last we heard, in late 2006, a group called the Regional Science & Technology Discovery Center for Northeastern Pennsylvania Inc. was searching for the $85,000 or so required to pay for a feasibility study.

Since then, there’s been a global recession. On the flip side, there’s also been a grant program unrolled in Pennsylvania in which some casino revenues are returned to municipalities each year for economic development projects. Might a contingent of county officials, in conjunction with state lawmakers such as Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, be able to end the inertia on a regional science center?

As it is, area families seeking experiences at a science center are compelled to travel to places such as Harrisburg’s Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, celebrating its 15th anniversary in September. Other road-trip options include Allentown (the Da Vinci Science Center) and Binghamton, New York (which has multiple museums).

Can this region support a single museum that is both a technology-teaching center and a tourist attraction?

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