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Full STEAM ahead

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Five years of planning and Explora is ready to begin the first phase of its expansion.

Siphe Kebengeghe of London rides the high-wire bike at the Explora Museum on Monday. Kebengeghe was chaperoning during an Atrisco Heritage Academy High School Enrichment Camp visit to the museum. (Courtesy of Explora)

The master plan is to make the area a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) learning campus, which will improve educational outcomes, drive economic development, and boost family and community prosperity. It was presented to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.

Kristin Leigh, Explora deputy director and director of community engagement, said the plan is a result of 22 listening sessions, 70 conversations with stakeholders, three public meetings and two strategic planning retreats.

Leigh said Explora also talked with the Sawmill Association, Wells Park and different immigrant groups.

“We heard over and over again that we have to do better for our littlest ones and prepare our youth for careers to end the cycle of poverty,” Leigh told the board of trustees. “We chose to focus on early childhood education and (science-technology-engineering-math).”

The first phase will include a new 8,000-square-foot center called X Studio, which is slated to break ground by January 2020.

It will house a variety of new spaces for teens and young adults focusing on STEM career pathways.

Autumn Conner, 9, plays a xylophone at the Explora Museum on Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

There will also be a new exhibition space that features Explora-style exhibits and calls out more intentionally to the STEM work that’s being done locally.

“We’re working on one of the first exhibitions,” Leigh said. “We’ll be working with the (Albuquerque) Water Utility Authority on water resource management.”

The space will also include physics and chemistry labs that offer more intensive work.

The plan also features robotics and engineering labs, digital media coding labs and a teen lounge where there would be a café.

The project is in architectural development and the city of Albuquerque is working with Studio Southwest Architects on the plan.

Leigh said the city signed off on the schematic phase and the detailed design phase is next.

“It’s supposed to go out for bid for construction in October,” she said. “The hope is to break ground in January and open in January 2021.”

The project will cost about $4 million.

Explora is going to begin the first phase of an expansion project that will bring two new buildings to the area near Old Town. The current location on Mountain Road NW has been in use since December 2003. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Explora is currently running its Cradle to Career Capital Funding Campaign, which has raised $3.6 million of public and private funding for the space.

The second phase of the project includes a center called Brillante.

This will be an early learning center, which is a STEAM-based preschool that will serve local residents and be the teaching area for the early childhood program at CNM.

“It would include pedestrian pathways, parking solutions and community resource spaces,” Leigh said.

Larry Freidman, Board of Trustees chair, asked about the plan to minimize traffic interruption when construction starts.

Leigh said that because the project hasn’t gone out for bid and isn’t tied to a construction company yet, there is no plan.

“It will affect both of us,” she said. “We will come up with a plan once we get a construction company.”

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