In a recent report produced by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, findings showed that the region could potentially be the East Coast response to Silicon Valley. Many technology companies have set up shop in the area because of its abundant water resources and diverse population. Nanotechnology, in particular, stands to become a major presence in the Mohawk Valley. At the Utica Children’s Museum (UCM), Dylann McLaughlin ‘18 has been working on a project proposed by interim director Elizabeth Brando to establish the Museum as the beginning of a workforce development pipeline. In theory, young children would come to the UCM to learn about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) concepts and become familiarized with skills that will one day be useful in these fields. The idea is that if children can be introduced to these concepts in a fun and hands-on way, they will be much more likely to stay interested in STEAM, pursue degrees in these fields, and find careers in the Mohawk Valley area.
The Utica Children’s Museum is a small non-profit in the heart of the Bagg’s Square district of Utica, devoted to supporting every child’s natural curiosity to learn through hands-on, play-based exploration. It has had a troubled past and was closed for almost a year, but the new director, board members, staff and many volunteers have worked hard to move on from its mistakes and rebuild the Museum as a beacon of educational value in Utica. The 3rd floor of the Museum is currently home to a temporary exhibit called “It’s a Nano World,” which introduces kids to the nanoscale and teaches them about nanobiology. When this exhibit leaves, UCM hopes to create a Maker Space for children ages 0-10. Dylann has been identifying companies and groups to reach out to for support in formulating plans for the new exhibit. At the end of the summer, she will have compiled a database of community contacts who are willing to help UCM build their Maker Space and/or lead classes or events when it opens.
Day to day, Dylann works with the Museum staff and other intern to promote UCM locally and help with basic operations, from managing the front desk to flyering the town to increase visitation. She finds this work extremely important, not only for the museum, but for Utica and the future of the Mohawk Valley region. As a candidate for teacher certification at Colgate, Dylann values her experience with the Utica Children’s Museum as beneficial to her future work as a teacher and has been motivated to think about how she will draw on this experience when she advocates for STEAM in her classroom.