Exploration Station gets lift-off

6 Feb 2007

Plans for Ireland’s first interactive science centre have been unveiled, with a site in Dublin already set aside for its location.

Dubbed the Exploration Station, the 6,600 sq m centre is aimed at fostering an interest in science among children and young adults.

The project is a public-private partnership between the Government and the centre’s Board of Trustees. The Government partnership includes the Office of Public Works, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

At the launch of the architectural plans yesterday it emerged that AIB is to donate €8m in sponsorship to the centre – contributing around half of the €15m start-up costs which will need to be raised over the next three to four years in order to establish the centre. According to Dr Danny O’Hare, chairman of the board of trustees, Exploration Station is expected to need around €600,000 per year after that in running costs.

The project is to be submitted for planning approval and it’s currently slated to open in 2010 beside Heuston Station in Dublin. An estimated 650,000 children and adults are expected to visit over the first five years.

The centre’s design includes interactive areas along with fast and slow routes through the facility. Some of its features are modelled on international examples such as the Boston Children’s Museum, the Boston Museum of Science and others in Europe.

There will be seven permanent galleries, with flexible programme spaces built into each so that people’s experiences will be different each time they visit. The space also includes gallery for travelling exhibits that it’s believed will change every six months. The plans cover a multi-purpose public space with places for up to 250 people and four spaces that can be used as workshops, studios or even laboratories.

Launching the plans yesterday, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said: “A sustainable knowledge economy needs strong foundations and these are to be found in first- and second-level education. The primary and secondary students of today are the potential star researchers of tomorrow.”

He added that the project would complement existing Government initiatives in the areas of science and technology. “I see Exploration Station as a major initiative that will support and complement all of these efforts. It will be a wonderful resource for our education system providing real and tangible demonstrations of science at work. And as a national centre, it must ensure that science and technology is brought to the entire country with an appropriate range of hands-on exhibits and programmes,” he said.

By Gordon Smith