The Grand Opening: A nexus for scientists and the public

Grand opening is now over. The dignitaries have come and gone and we emerged basically unscathed from the hurricane. Now that things have calmed down enough to write a new blog the utter insanity of the last week comes into even better focus.

The first major hurdle that came up was all of the crap in the basement of our education building. Unfortunately, this time I’m not referring to weird stuff the navy left for us, but actual raw sewage that started to back up into the basement…four days before our grand opening. At this point two U.S. Senators are coming and we have a basement slowly filling with poo. Not the last minute surprise you’re hoping for.

Fortunately the sewage was on the opposite side of the basement from where we just finished storing a lot of our stuff. So being of strong back and mostly lacking a sense of smell I made sure everything we had down there was well off the floor.

This is one of the times that our park maintenance guys really deserve a huge amount of credit. They braved the basement - which kind of looks like the set of Horror movie on a good day - and got everything sucked out and repaired in no time. Unfortunately, even once you remove sewage, a smell like that tends to linger on for a bit. Clever fan positioning and a lot of air freshener got everything back into shape by the time the grand opening started.

Once we overcame the great sewage issues, the rest of the setup went off pretty smoothly if a little last minute. Our grand opening started at 2:30pm and the painters finished painting our garage at about 1:00pm. Personally this was a very laid back event for me. I directed a lot of traffic got to drive a fire truck a few hundred yards (which was awesome) and just talked to a lot of people about what we were doing.

For those above my pay grade this was a pretty nerve racking event. This was the real introduction of the campus to the people who are able to decide whether this place will continue to get funding. We had two U.S. Senators in attendance at this event. Both senators really stepped up and pushed for this place to exist, and if they didn’t, I probably wouldn’t even be here this summer.

We also had a huge number of private citizens in attendance who probably have a net worth greater than some small European countries. This was pretty much our one shot to impress both the senators and the potential donors. So there was some major stress going on among the higher ups on campus.

Fortunately it all seemed to go fantastic. Giant red ribbons were cut and schmoozing was done in great quantities. The senators in particular gave fantastic speeches. They really spoke to the major issues that we do cover at the research center.

While I have a lot of fun up here and most of the time we don’t take ourselves too seriously, our mission is hugely important. In a time where general science literacy is just disturbingly low, we are one of the great bridges between actual scientists and the public. We get a chance to inspire children to follow a lifetime of science and better inform adults about the world they live in.

So here’s to our new campus and hopefully many more years of wonderful service.