The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation met with representatives from Gateway to Science in Bismarck to engage in exploratory talks to add an Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) exhibit to the Dakota Science Center on Wednesday, July 28.

Gateway to Science is a 501(c)(3) founded in 1994 that creates hands-on experiences for children of all ages with the intention of teaching them about the importance of STEM fields. It has become an educational resource for the region since then.

Gateway to Science also offers accessibility to those who wish to visit, including discounted admission for at-risk families and families receiving food assistance, partial scholarships for students to attend clubs and camps, free Family Days, its STEM at Home webpage and Gateway to Science on the Go outreach programs.

Gateway to Science Executive Director Beth Demke said adding a UAS exhibit to the Dakota Science Center would be an important step toward getting children in the Grand Forks region to take interest in STEM fields. Drones are commonplace and can be purchased online, so accessibility is a big factor in how the idea for a UAS exhibit came about.

“UAS is one STEM concept,” Demke said. “For us, it’s all about teaching students about science, technology, engineering and math in all of its forms and all of its concepts. It’s important to interest students while they’re young, so they grow up with this understanding that STEM is important.”

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Demke is unsure of whether Airtonomy will be involved in a UAS exhibit if it happens, but she did not rule it out.

“Our meeting was really all about starting these conversations to get ideas, so we don’t know what the end result will be yet,” Demke said. “That’s kind of the beauty of exhibit development and program development. We don’t start with any preconceived ideas. We’re coming to ask questions and get answers and continue these conversations.”

Demke is optimistic about the process going forward, even though it is still in its infant stage. She said she anticipates the public being a large part of the conversation moving forward once more details get ironed out.

“The way that we involve the public in the development of exhibits and programming is through our design concepts and prototypes,” Demke said. “A lot of time, we start with industry, higher education and people who are subject matter experts, and then we bring those ideas together, and we develop something that the public can reflect on, and then we’ll present it, whether it’s in a program format or a prototype of an exhibit, and then we get the public’s feedback from it. It’s hard to get feedback if you’re just saying, ‘Well, what do you think?’”