Science center celebrates new technology, donors
EASTON, Maine — The Francis Malcolm Science Center, home of Aroostook County’s lone planetarium, is looking at a brighter future after teetering on the edge of closure late last year.
An estimated 500 people came to the museum and nature center in Easton last Saturday for an open house showcasing presentations from a new digital projector. The center also hosted rocket launches at the edge of a potato field and thanked small and large donors and volunteers who have stepped up with support.
“We’ve got a lot of work going forward, but we’ve got a good structure in place,” said Jim Orser, the center’s trustee and the great-great nephew of the original donor, Easton-born educator Francis Malcolm.
The center recently received a $40,000 contribution from Lili Nelms and Robert Ingram, Houston residents and friends of the Orsers who felt inspired to contribute to the center’s cause. The bulk of that donation allowed the planetarium to replace its 30-year-old projector with a digital system from ASH Enterprises that features astronomy, geology and other science programming on the overhead dome
Beyond the planetarium, the center is now “having a yearly campaign for about $120,000 and we’re doing really nicely against that challenge,” said Orser. “We’re hoping the launch will excite people about the digital system for the community.”
The center also recently received support from Diane and Roger Libby, two engineers with links to the region who donated $10,000 as part of a matching campaign initiative.
“When we came back and I was a substitute teacher in Easton, I came to the center, I sat there and thought, ‘Wow, this is what we need in this area,’” said Diane Libby, a Mars Hill native. She and her husband, who grew up in Auburn, worked as chemical engineers at Kodak in Rochester, New York, and now divide their time between Mars Hill and Florida.
They said they were impressed with the center’s blend of exhibits, planetarium, forest trails and activities, all available for a large rural region in northern Maine and New Brunswick.
“This is a unique center,” said Roger Libby, who’s also a part of a new volunteer board formed by the center to help guide it “We need to have our children experience the vast beauties of all the different types of a science. Science drives everything. This is a way for children of all ages to really experience that.”
The new digital projector should help add to the center’s value for schools by offering new science content, and it will also be a draw for area adults, especially senior citizens, Orser said.
Phil Christensen, a retired agricultural engineer from Fort Fairfield who is also a member of the new center board, said he learned something new in one of the shows — that light pollution is reducing human connections to the night sky around the world.
“I didn’t realize it was such a significant problem,” Christensen said. “I’ll bet you that because of today some people are going to turn their lights off.”