New Science Center: Where learning meets community

Martha Engel

Curiosity. Exploration. Community. Creativity. Fun. Science? 

The Kiewit Luminarium, which opened April 15, is located at The RiverFront in downtown Omaha at 345 Riverfront Drive. It aims to join exploration and hands-on learning with fields of science and technology in a meaningful way. The Luminarium not only brings Omaha a center for collaboration and education, but also joins members of the community together through a dedication to conversation and compassion. For Marian students, the Luminarium serves as an opportunity to learn beyond the classroom and to explore social change. 

Creative Community Young members of the community experiment with art and shapes in the Catch Waves exhibit. These exhibits emphasize art, community, and exploration.

Sirisha Sualy, Vice President of Partnerships at the Kiewit Luminarium, has an insightful perspective into the true role of the Luminarium. Community, she said, “should be driving what we’re pursuing.” Through this lens, the Luminarium becomes a revolutionary way to provide “different opportunities for individuals to engage… in a way that’s fun and different from what’s traditional.” Through community engagement, the Kiewit Luminarium becomes a place “where everyone is welcome,” Sualy said. 

To achieve this purpose, the Luminarium explores different ways of experiential learning in order to accommodate each person who walks through the glass doors. By providing a wide range of exhibits, the Luminarium can “disrupt traditional norms and allow for accessibility for different groups, especially the underrepresented,” Sualy explained. The goal of this accessibility is to “make sure that we’re a support, a resource for all,” Sualy said. The Luminarium is for each member of the community. “We’re able to touch and experience it in a way that makes sense to us,” Sualy said. 

The Kiewit Luminarium is not only dedicated to specific sciences; it explores how science is truly all around. Its goal is to begin “thinking about the things that don’t seem very STEM, but are,” Sualy said, and create new understanding between people. The “Kiewit Luminarium is trying to show everyone that STEM doesn’t need to be the perceived, defined roles that we think them to be,” Sualy said. 

Marian’s own STEM programs reflect this same idea. Based on science and technology, programs such as Robotics and the TARs encourage problem solving and creativity through immersive learning. “We got thrown into the deep end,” Junior Crystal Gonzalez said. As a member of the robotics program, Gonzalez “had to figure out how to solve the issues through the year,” she said. Through exploration and problem solving, the robotics team was able to find creative solutions to their problems. This process of learning and exploration outside of the classroom is encouraged through the Kiewit Luminarium. 

See Something More Luke Engel looks at his palm through a microscope on Apr. 20, looking deeper into his own skin. “I really liked seeing the tools they use to build the exhibits,” he said, “and it was fun experimenting with building a bridge,” he continued. The Luminarium is meant to help look beyond what you know.

Sophomore Martha Chapman also knows the process of experiential learning and creative problem solving. As a TAR, or Technical Aid Resource, Chapman had to “learn on the job,” she said. The challenge of being a TAR is that “there’s a lot of just trial and error, and coming up with new and creative ways to fix problems,” Chapman said. The Kiewit Luminarium is dedicated to helping students such as Chapman further explore their love for STEM, and experience science beyond a textbook. 

The Luminarium also focuses on providing mentoring and training resources to young people. The Luminator Program, for people aged 15-25, provides part time employment for curious young people interested in education, STEM, and community engagement. Sualy explained that because the “Luminarium is a place for everyone… we want that to extend to our Luminators,” This means that there is no demographic for an employee. Instead the Luminarium emphasizes a “diverse representation that really mirrors what Omaha looks like,” Sualy said. All that’s required of a Luminator is to be “eager to learn, curious, collaborative, and want to have an awesome time,” Sualy said. 

The Kiewit Luminarium highlights the role of collaboration, creativity, exploration and science in the Omaha community. By bringing people together under one roof, with a common interest and place for conversation, true social change can occur. Sualy explained, “we can be a platform to be kind, to be more understanding as a community.”Science extends beyond the classroom, whether it’s building robots or fixing iPads, and the Luminarium’s purpose is to encourage the community to embrace this while growing more understanding and interconnected. “If as a society we can come together and be a bit more caring, and less divisive, that’s all we can hope for,” Sualy said. That’s the true brilliance of the Kiewit Luminarium. 

As Sualy said, “it’s a spectacular, breathtaking place.”

Estrella A sculptural star dominats the entrance of the Kiewit Luminarium as patrons walk in the second week after opening weekend. This design, which allows people to stand inside and look at a world colored differently than what they normally see, is just one example of architectural creativity in the Luminarium.
Dig Deeper Patrons examine maps, build arches, make marble runs, constructs bridges and dams and learn about the Nebraska environment in the Dig Deeper exhibit on Apr. 20. The Luminarium serves all members of community, allowing patrons of all ages and interests to have fun.
Benefactors The Donor Recognition Wall at the Kiewit Luminarium acknowledges the generosity of the Omaha community.

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