Golda Och Academy officially celebrated the opening of its Dr Lynne B Harrison STEM Center Oct. 1 with an unusual ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Although the 4,000-square-foot center at the West Orange campus is named in honor of Harrison, a philanthropist and school grandparent who donated $1 million toward the facility, she did not have the honor of cutting the ribbon.
Instead, a robot designed by members of the GOA high school robotics team motored down the aisle between guests, and then cut the ribbon with a pair of scissors. Harrison did get to hold the ribbon, along with head of school Adam Shapiro.
The center’s three stories include robotics and STEM labs on the first two floors, as well as a soldering station and a full-size robotics field for the team. The third floor offers a multipurpose space.
“We now have the room we need to engage and enhance student learning for the robotics and STEM programs,” said STEM coordinator Dr. Shira Kelmanovich. The school has expanded its offerings to include a high school elective on programming sensors, a middle school STEM club, and a 3D-printing elective.
Other products of the STEM program (the acronym stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the celebration included the mezuza affixed by Harrison, with the help of Kelmanovich and leaders of the high school student council. That mezuza and all of the others in the center’s doorways were created by GOA students using a 3D printer.
“STEM education is an apt acronym,” said Harrison. “It is the stem, the stalk, from which many good things will flower. The health and the prosperity of our community, our nation, and the world depend on the innovations and products that will come from STEM research.”
Construction on the center began June 17 and was completed in time for the first day of school on Sept. 3. The new center is an extension of the Harrison STEM program, which broadened GOA’s STEM initiatives in 2013 thanks to a $480,000 grant from Harrison. It enabled the school to hire a new STEM coordinator and fund an intensive high school STEM class, high school robotics team, computer science electives, 3D printers, and a new Macintosh lab.
“This gift that Dr. Harrison has given to our school is transformative,” said Shapiro. “Our students, many of whom have already been focused on STEM, now have an incredible new space that allows them to dream bigger and create things they may have once thought to be out of reach.”
Harrison is the president of Harrison Research Laboratories, Inc., which tests products for safety and efficacy for major companies. She is also a member of the board of Space Israel and the newly appointed chair of the USA Board of Space Israel. Harrison also founded and funded the Dr Lynne B Harrison Science Center at the New Jersey Y Camps.
West Orange Mayor Robert D. Parisi was among those attending the dedication at GOA’s Eric F. Ross Upper School campus.