A Belgian science center is flying the flag for innovation and technology.
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A Belgian science center is flying the flag for innovation and technology.

The centre, “Technopolis”, is the only science centre in Flanders and one of about 3,000 globally. The first science centres opened in the US and Canada in the 1960s and later the concept spread across the world.

First opened in February 2000, Technopolis is this month celebrating its 15th anniversary with the launch of a new themed exhibition.

Over the past 15 years, the centre, at Mechelen, has enjoyed a steadily growing reputation abroad and, last year, 450 representatives of start-up science centres from 58 countries converged on Technopolis for the “Science Centre World Summit” which drew up an “action plan” for the future of science centres.

Under the plan, called the “Mechelen Declaration”, the science centre sector made a series of commitments to undertake concrete action in the future.

Technopolis has also taken the lead in various European projects involving science communication, including “Scientix”, a project which promotes and supports EU-wide collaboration among STEM teachers (science, technology, engineering and maths), education researchers and policy makers.

In its first phase (2009-2012), the project built an online portal with information about European STEM education projects and their results. The goal of the second phase, which concludes  later this year, is to extend the venture to a national level.

The centre boasts more than 350 interactive exhibitions, such as ” Xplora,” an area where  8-14 year olds can discover their talents, “Inspirience,” an area for older children where creativity is tested, and “Lab” for small chemical experiments.There is also a garden with outdoor exhibitions while Technopolis also houses a “Fablab” with 3D-printers and laser cutters.

To coincide with its anniversary, it recently launched its latest themed exhibition, called ‘The secret of Fire and Glue’, which runs until August 2015.

Centre spokesman Bart Vande Vyvere said, “Chemistry is all around us. You would be amazed at how much chemistry can be found in our daily lives and this exhibition tells you all about it.

“Visitors can do everything from build their own molecule and fire a hydrogen rocket to discover what it means to have butterflies in their stomach or how strong a bullet-proof jacket really is.”

Further info at www.technopolis.be 

By Martin Banks