Challenger Learning Center tries to reveal secret identity with superhero STEM night

ALLEGANY — Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center officials fear their space-themed educational facility is akin to a superhero’s true identity: one of the best kept secrets around.

So it was only fitting that that they tried to raise awareness about what they do and what they offer by hosting a superhero-themed community event Friday night.

The Superhero Family STEM Night included more 30 science, math, engineering and technology activities that allowed local children and their parents to learn about magnetism through Iron Man, buoyancy through Aquaman and aerodynamics through Wonder Woman and her invisible plane.

Commander Sharon Bushnell noted that while roughly 25,000 visitors have walked through the center’s doors since it opened near St. Bonaventure University in 2009, many of those visitors have come via school field trips. Center officials also want people to know the center is open for other community events and activities as well.

“Sometimes people tell us that we’re the best kept secret in the Southern Tier. We don’t want that — we don’t want to be a secret anymore,” said Bushnell, adding the center will host a Mars-themed community night for students in grades six and over on Dec. 12.

Sheila Flint “didn’t know they had anything like this around here” before her daughter told her about Friday night’s event. Flint, a teacher aide at the Alfred-Almond Central School District, thought it’d be a great opportunity for her 5-year-old great nephew, Landyn Bidell, who she described as a “very smart kid” who enjoys “anything educational.”

Landyn, wearing his Spiderman costume, was able to learn about simple machines by sitting in a wooden seat and using a rope and pulley system to pull and spin himself into the air.

“I just want to thank them for putting this on. It’s very good for the kids,” Flint said.

The event was exactly what Angela M. Rhodes of Olean was hoping to find when she and her family moved back to the U.S. two years ago after living in Morocco.

While living in the North African nation gave her sons, 7-year-old Dekiyas and 10-year-old De’Jiyah, a chance to learn other languages and “open their minds to the world,” Rhodes, a Portville native, said the country’s educational opportunities were lacking.

“That’s something that we definitely missed while we were out of the country so to find this available and for only $10, $15 (total admission), in this small area, right here by the local university, is definitely something that I’m finding really beneficial,” Rhodes said.

She feels it’s important to expose her sons to STEM early on, especially considering that her sons are black and black people are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields; the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only 6 percent of all STEM workers are black.

“So I want them to really find an interest in that,” Rhodes said.

Her sons particularly enjoyed the aerodynamics, Wonder Woman-themed station, which tasked the children with using a hair dryer to keep a ping pong floating in the air.

The point of the exercise was to educate the children about 18th century Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli, explained St. Bonaventure sophomore Hadley Ferris, one of several education majors who helped run the event.

“(Bernoulli) found that the faster the air flows over the surface of something, the less the air pushes on the surface. So that means that the air pressure on the object is lower than average,” Ferris said.

That made it easy to connect the experiment to Wonder Woman, whose costume Ferris donned.

“She uses the same principal when she’s flying her plane,” Ferris said.

St. Bonaventure education majors trained at the center once a week, getting feedback on their STEM-related lesson plans from the center’s commanders, many of whom are retired teachers themselves.

Of course, the real training happened when the St. Bonaventure students actually applied their lesson plan with the children Friday night.

“I’ve noticed the kids love science and they love when they’re successful,” Ferris said. “Doing the experiments gives them an opportunity to have confidence and that’s really nice.”

St. Bonaventure sophomore Natalie Cummings said she’s grateful the center is so close to campus for she and other students to take advantage of.

“This center is like a hidden gem in Olean,” she said.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)

Hinsdale teacher up for award thanks to Challenger

  • By TOM DINKI, Olean Times Herald

  • Mar 8, 2017

HINSDALE — The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center has nominated Hinsdale Central School teacher Scott Bauer as its nominee for the June Scobee Rodgers Innovative Educator Award.

The award, named in honor of Challenger Center founding chairwoman June Scobee Rodgers, recognizes an educator who understands the importance of S.T.E.M. — or science, technology, engineering and math — education and demonstrates enthusiasm and passion in teaching those subjects. Each Challenger Center may submit one nominee for the award, and one teacher will be chosen to receive $2,500 to enhance his classroom lessons or support professional development opportunities.

Bauer, a sixth-grade social studies and English language arts teacher who regularly takes his students on field trips to the Allegany-based Challenger Learning Center, was surprised by his nomination when informed by Hinsdale Principal Laurie Cuddy, but honored nonetheless.

“Out of all the schools that our Challenger Center provides to, they only get to nominate one teacher, so I was very flattered they chose me,” he said.

Bauer’s students annually attend the center, and his sixth-grade class several years ago was the first-ever group of students to experience the center’s Halley’s Comet mission simulation. It’s an experience students can’t get in the classroom, he said.

“When you go to the Challenger Center, it’s not just a normal field trip — you’re pretty much getting your kids engaged in all sorts of learning experiences,” he said. “It’s just all aspects of S.T.E.M. You have your science, your math, your reading, and team building and problem solving — I mean everything is impacted in just this short little mission that they go through.”

Fred Welch, director of the center, taught computer technology to Bauer when Bauer was a student at Olean Middle School. He wrote in Bauer’s award application that he’d witnessed Bauer’s dedication to students during field trips, as Bauer is always part of the students’ mission.

“Scott always shows his excitement and passion, which his students emulate,” Welch wrote. “Because of this, whenever we are looking for a group of students to train, or test a new mission on, we schedule Scott’s students into our center.”

Bauer said he oftens conducts S.T.E.M. activities in his own classroom, as he presents problems to his students and has them collaborate in groups to solve them. He uses the “Minecraft” video game as a tool for students to learn more about coding and programming.

His partner teacher also taught hands-on science through the school’s BOCES cooperative system “kit program,” which is aligned with state science standards.

“Students have our (BOCES) environmental educator broaden their science knowledge through hand-on experiences in Mr. Bauer’s classes,” Cuddy wrote in Bauer’s application. “Some of these include animal habitats and learning how to use snowshoes.”

Cuddy added that Bauer has also presented at faculty meetings to show his fellow teachers how to use VoiceThread, “Minecraft” and iPads in classrooms.

“Teachers use Mr. Bauer as a technology resource often,” she said.

Bauer said that if he won the award, he’d use the funding to purchase materials that would add to his students’ S.T.E.M. experience, such as Cubelets, Makey Makey kits or even a 3-D printer. He’d also like to help the school get the “maker stations,” where students can tinker with technology and enhance their engineering skills, it’s currently in the process of acquiring.

Cuddy said that although Hinsdale is a rural school with a high level of poverty, it believes in providing as many educational opportunities as possible for its students and does what it needs to to provide opportunities through grants or supplying out of pocket.

Bauer, who graduated from Olean High School in 2000, recommends that any teacher who has yet to take their students on a field trip to the Challenger Center do so.

The winner will be selected March 31, with an award presentation to take place between April 10 and 17.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)

Imaginations Soar at Space Dreamers Science Camp


February 27, 2017 at 6:56 PM

ALLEGANY, NY—"We get to learn things here we don't learn anywhere else," Ronald James, 9, said of Space Dreamers Science Camp with a smile.  

Thursday, he and 17 others sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor of the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center awaiting the chance to ride on a homemade hoverboard. The students in grades 3 through 6 laughed and marveled over household items they had just reverse engineered, including a bright red remote-control car and a cast-off DVD player.  

"There are no words to describe it," Regan, 10, said. "This place is amazing." 

The program, in its second year, developed out of the need Commander Sharon Bushnell, coordinator for the space academy, saw for young students during midwinter break. Bushnell and the other commanders decided to take advantage of the need, resulting from weekday boredom, parents' struggles to get the entire week off of work or any combination of other factors, by offering a weeklong camp geared toward students with an interest in space.  

Though initially offered to students in grades 4 through 7, Bushnell said she perceived a greater need for serving younger students. And since last year's program had a weak seventh-grade presence, the age group for the 2017 program was shifted. 

"We certainly have a stronger presence this year," Bushnell said. "We can go as high as 25 students, but with 18 it's nice. We can give them individual attention and provide them with a more hands-on experience." 

This attention was evident Thursday. Commanders stood close by and encouraged students as they learned the basic principles of electric circuits to build their own flashlights or tapped the beat as students practiced the lyrics to their final presentation song, sung to the tune of "One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater."  

The camp came at an opportune time, as an international team of astronomers announced their discovery of seven Earth-size exoplanets Feb. 25. 

Bushnell and the other commanders, most of whom are retired teachers, expressed their excitement that the camp fell during such a groundbreaking time in the scientific world.  

"The probability that this upcoming generation might be the one to build an actual space colony is starting to become much more real," Bushnell said.  

Students had the opportunity to experience various simulations and other space-related activities, including space missions, flight missions and rover design. The various other activities revolved around "the STEAM experience," a variation of STEM incorporating the arts.  

Bushnell said the students took their responsibilities and ran with them, using red pop bottle tops for doomsday buttons, creating satellite phones out of cardboard and constructing isolation chambers for anyone at risk of theoretical contamination.  

Though many of the students in attendance had dreams unrelated to space and engineering, expressing their desire to become chefs or archaeologists "like Indiana Jones," they had positive words to say of the camp.  

Ava, 11, who has aspirations of becoming a doctor, said the camp was fun.  

"We get to do a lot of different things," Ava said. "I like team building especially, and I just took apart a DVD player."  

Sabastian, 9, shared similar sentiments.  

"It's so fun. My favorite part so far is building the space colony."  

The camp concluded Friday with a collaborative performance by all 18 participants and the opportunity to purchase prizes with the "money" they had earned for attendance, timeliness and team work.  

"Stay tuned for summer camps," Bushnell said.  

The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center offers programs, activities and missions for all age groups ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens.  More information can be found by visiting



Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center: Exploring the 'Final Frontier' and taking students where they've never gone before

By Kathryn RossDaily Reporter

ALLEGANY - Saturday is the 31st anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, but out of that disaster came an idea that rekindles the dream of exploring "Space, the final frontier."

Near the St. Bonaventure campus and off a back street in Allegany is the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center. The families of the Challenger crew organized the Challenger Center for Space Science Education as a permanent memorial to the crew - Commander Francis (Dick) Scobee, Teacher-in-Space Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith and Ellison S. Onizuka. All perished after the shuttle orbiter Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight on Jan. 28, 1986. Fifty-two learning centers have been established by this non-profit organization, including the site in Allegany.

With the help of a $500,000 NASA grant obtained by then-Congressman Randy Kuhl and support from Dresser-Rand, Cutco and St. Bonaventure, the Challenger Learning Center in Allegany launched its first mission in June 2009. Since then, an estimated 10,000 students from 17 counties across Western New York and northern Pennsylvania have participated in programs there.

According to Executive Director and, after he dons his blue space suit, Commander Fred Welch the "mission" of the Challenger Learning Center is to stimulate STEM (study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and grow interest in those fields.

"Kids and adults are inherently interested in the mysteries of space and we do science around that," he explained.

The Learning Center offers several age-appropriate missions, including Micronaut missions for Pre-K to fourth-grade students, Rendezvous with Comet Halley missions for Grades 5-6 and up, Mission to Mars for students in Grade 7-8 and up, and Earth Odyssey missions for students in Grades 9 and up. They also offer specialized programs for home-schooled students and camps during the winter breaks and summer. The missions and camps are dependent upon the number of students participating.

The site features a space academy where younger students learn not only about the solar system and constellations, but also about magnetism and insects and do experiments in the Discovery Lab. In the EVA (Extra Venue Activity) room, there are several historical displays featuring space-related events from a replica of Galileo's telescope to newspapers announcing mankind's first footsteps on the Moon in 1969. Here students build rockets and catapults and other apparatus depending on the curriculum they are in.

In the briefing room, students learn what their mission will be and then travel to Houston to "Mission Control" where they monitor a mission. From there the crew heads to Florida where it passes through an air lock to board a shuttle for a simulated launch complete with special effects. Afterward, students conduct the mission in the spaceship utilizing navigation and collect medical and science facts and other information available on the flight deck.

"Our activities employ hard science, national global science, and next generation science, along with mathematics and engineering," Welch said, adding that the programs are developed and taught by retired teachers and volunteers.

"We want the kids to come back because they are interested in what they learn here," he said.

The cost for a school to bring two groups of students (between 16 and 30) at a time for one, two-hour mission in which they switch between the spacecraft and Mission Control is $800 for ages 9 and above. One-hour missions only in the spacecraft for 10 to 14 students aged 9 and above is $350. There are also classes ranging in cost from $275 to $700 for the Discovery Lab and EVA Center.

For the upcoming winter break, the Challenger Learning Center is offering Space Dreamer Science Camp for students in third to sixth grades from Feb. 20 to 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students can be dropped off for the day. The cost is $175 if registered before Tuesday. Only 25 campers will be accepted. Activities include CSI, Team Building, First Flight, Rover Design, Reverse Engineering, a Mystery Mission and more.

The Challenger Center is also hosting an Aviation Club - three weeks of introduction to basic aviation and ground lessons with a flight simulator. Instruction counts toward ground training for private pilot certification. Two sessions will be offered. The first takes place Feb. 28, March 7 and 14; and the second is March 21, 28 and April 4, from 6 to 8 p.m.. The course is offered to those in eighth grade or older. The cost is $75.

For more information on these and other programs at the Challenger Learning Center, go to the website or call (716) 379-8686.

Challenger Learning Center hoping to put more students in air with aviation club

  • By TOM DINKI, Olean Times Herald

  • Jan 20, 2017

ALLEGANY — The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center is hoping to send more students into the air with its new CLC Aviation Club.

The center will offer an introduction to basic aviation and ground lessons with its flight simulators throughout the spring. A certified flight instructor on staff will lead the three-week sessions that will count toward ground training for a private pilot license.

“NASA is aerospace,” said Fred Welch, Challenger Learning Center director. “So we have space covered with astronauts and our simulator. But the aero part of it, we’re fortunate to have that covered with a certified instructor who can come in to offer instructions.”

The center has offered the past two summers its Summer Aviation Camp, which gave students the chance to tour local airports in Olean, Bradford, Pa., and Buffalo, and even go up in a plane for an hour with a licensed pilot. After participation in the camp dwindled this past summer, the center decided to offer additional courses in the spring to increase interest in the summer program,

Commander Steve Jackson will lead students in flight simulations at the center to give them a feel for flying, in addition to teaching the basics of aerodynamics and map reading.

“Just touch upon the things that they’re going to need to know if they go further on with becoming a pilot,” Welch said.

Students as young as eighth grade can participate, and the center will even take adults. Welch said the center wants kids who are at or close to driving age, though he noted you don’t need a driver’s license to earn your pilot’s license.

He said the aviation camps are in an effort with the Cattaraugus County-Olean Municipal Airport and the Bradford Regional Airport, who he said have noticed a decline in local residents licensed to fly.

The number of pilots nationally, both private and commercial, decreased by more than 200,000 between 1980 and 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. There were 827,071 pilots in 1980, compared to 618,660 in 2011.

Getting flying experience at a young age can give students a head start on becoming a commercial pilot or joining the military, Welch said. He added a private pilot’s license for recreation also has its benefits, as he has a friend who will take an hour flight from Olean to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony today in Washington D.C.

“There’s a ton of local businessmen that have to travel at times that are saying, ‘Is it worth my time to get a pilot's license and actually fly myself?’” Welch said.

The CLC Aviation Club will meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. once a week for three weeks during two different sessions — Feb. 28 and March 7 and 14, or March 21 and 28 and April 3. The cost is $75.

THE CENTER will also offer its Spacer Dreamers Science Camp during the week of Feb. 20 when most local students are off from school.

Commander Sharon Bushnell will run the camp for students in grades 3 through 6 with a science technology engineering art and math, or STEAM, focus. Activities will include crime-scene investigation team building, rover designing and reverse engineering.

“We have programming to offer to kids for the week so the parents have an option to keep their kids active,” Welch said.

It will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day with registration closing Feb. 8. The cost of the camp is $199, but campers registered before Jan. 31 get a discounted rate of $175.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)


Space Fair commemorates Challenger

By KELSEY BOUDIN Olean Times Herald | Posted: Friday, January 29, 2016 11:56 am

Cassidy Crawford, a fourth-grade student from Hinsdale Central School, proudly displays her first-place project Thursday evening at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center Space Fair. The fair commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle explosion, from which a global network of space-education centers arose in honor of fallen

Cassidy Crawford, a fourth-grade student from Hinsdale Central School, proudly displays her first-place project Thursday evening at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center Space Fair. The fair commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle explosion, from which a global network of space-education centers arose in honor of fallen

ALLEGANY — The global network of Challenger Learning Centers arose from disaster.

It was 30 years ago Thursday that NASA’s Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all crew members, whose families later sought to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M.) education in their honor.

The local Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center (DRCLC) commemorated the anniversary with a Space Fair featuring themed projects from area students in second through eighth grade. Three winners were selected in their respective divisions.

They were:

Grades 2-4: Cassidy Crawford, fourth grade, Hinsdale Central School, “What if … Christa McAuliffe Journal”;

 Grades 5-6: Benjamin Torrey, sixth grade, Northern Potter (Pa.) School, “Prospector Space Base”; and

 Grades 7-8: St. Mary’s Catholic (Pa.) Middle School group, an iMovie documentary on the Challenger crew.

There were 27 total submissions.

“The main criteria was that the projects in some way honor Challenger crew members who were never able to complete their mission,” said Fred Welch, DRCLC director.

Many projects paid homage to teacher Christa McAuliffe, who in the interest of education intended on completing a series of scientific experiments from space that would be replicated back on Earth, Welch said.

 “The projects were pretty solid. There were some wonderful stories depicting a fictional activity around the shuttle disaster, and there were testimonials,” he added. “There was a Mars-scape that was created, talking about going to Mars.”

The three winners can pick individual classes to participate in a free simulated space mission at the center, which are a $1,000 value apiece, Welch noted.

“These projects were all completed by students on their own time, at home or with the help of a teacher that took extra time to help the students,” said Joelle Perry, the center’s assistant director.

The students were given roughly two months to fine-tune their work, she added.

While all Challenger Centers — including locations in Great Britain and South Korea — commemorated the anniversary in their own ways, each featured a video talk from Dr. June Scobee Rogers, the wife of late Challenger commander Dick Scobee.

“We talked as a group for the people who could remember the tragedy about what their memories were,” Welch said. “It’s one of those tragedies you remember where you were and what you were doing.”

But hundreds of thousands of students have since benefited from space-geared lessons in S.T.E.M. fields, he noted.

“It’s amazing that 30 years after that event these centers are still viable in putting out a good product for the students of the area to come in and experience a simulated mission in hopes of getting them excited about S.T.E.M. careers,” Welch said. “The energy those original founders brought to the missions has kept this organization going.”

(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)

Manley Trust helps Challenger Center

By KELSEY BOUDIN, Olean Times Herald | Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 8:12 pm

ALLEGANY — The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center has received a $6,690 grant from the F.T. and Anna C. Manley Memorial Trust Fund.

The space-science education facility located near St. Bonaventure University is partially dependent upon donations from community benefactors, said Challenger Learning Center Director Fred Welch.

The center serves area students from New York and Pennsylvania. Many of them are from poor and underserved communities, officials said.

With an emphasis on supplementing schools’ curricula with hands-on experiences outside the classroom, the center aims to foster student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) subjects. Those studies, Welch said, could lead to promising careers later.

“S.T.E.M. careers are now more important than ever,” he added. “Our global economy is technologically driven and there is a shortage of workers that have the skills and knowledge base to fill the growing demand.”

And all should be included in pursuits that are both intellectually stimulating and fun, the director said.

“Women and minorities especially are poorly represented in S.T.E.M. careers, and the Challenger Learning Center would like to encourage students of all races and genders to pursue a career that interests and excites them,” Welch said. “It is our mission to provide all of our area students with an early exposure to S.T.E.M. education with the hope that their time at our center will help foster a love of learning for the sciences.”

For the Manley Trust’s part — which has made numerous charitable donations to area industries, businesses and educational institutions — decision-makers recognize the center’s value.

“Imagine a young girl, watching a video of a woman engineer or a woman architect, and that girl believing that she has the ability and the drive to become successful in her own life,” a trustee wrote in a statement. “True, the Challenger Learning Center is often a one-day field trip for many students, but that one day may be the first day to a lifelong future career.”

(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)

Flying high at the Challenger Learning Center - Olean Times Herald

By KELSEY BOUDIN, Olean Times Herald | Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 5:34 pm

ALLEGANY — Several area high school students took their first small steps toward private airplane pilot’s licenses last week during the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center’s inaugural Summer Aviation Camp.

A student learns on a newly installed flight simulator at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center in Allegany during its inaugural Summer Aviation Camp last week.

A student learns on a newly installed flight simulator at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center in Allegany during its inaugural Summer Aviation Camp last week.

Geared for eighth-through-12th-graders, the camp included instruction on flight simulators recently installed at the Allegany center, one hour of guided flight time with Steve Jackson of the Bradford (Pa.) Regional Airport and tours of the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport control tower, among other experiences.

Challenger Learning Center Director Fred Welch said five high-schoolers participated — two from Allegany, one from Olean, another from Smethport, Pa., and a student visiting from Germany.

“I’m really happy we got it off the ground,” Welch told the Times Herald on Monday. “We learned from it, and we know how we can expand it next year and get on it heavier with the marketing beforehand for more kids.”

Participating students took the controls of a Piper Archer II out of Bradford Regional the final day of camp, Jackson said. They earned 30 minutes of flight time to put toward future licensing pursuits. The other half-hour was spent observing Jackson’s cockpit procedures.

“They can log that toward their instruction if they ever decided to go on a career in aviation or just to become a private pilot,” Jackson said.

One student is already close to that goal, Welch said.

“There’s one from the Smethport area who has already flown solo,” the center director said. “He’s about 16. He can’t fly anyone around just yet, but he’s getting there.”

They also could purchase a ride in a World War II-era Stearman biplane.

The students toured the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport in addition to Buffalo-Niagara, learning the similarities and differences between the small- and large-scale operations. Airport security was another key piece, as students got a closer look at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) protocol, Jackson said.

“We were able to get a complete tour, and the kids got to go up into the top of the tower where the air-traffic control personnel are clearing aircraft for takeoff and landings,” Jackson said. “They were able to see how that procedure works, how flight plans flow through the system.”

Between flight simulation lessons at the center, instructors and students further discussed how to develop flight plans, preflight procedures and basic instrumentation, Jackson said.

“We talked a lot about flight planning and navigating from one airport to another,” he added. “It was a really good explanation of airport operations. The kids learned an awful lot about moving airplanes around and what happens behind the scenes on the ground.”

The final day ended with a “friendly” simulator competition among the students, Jackson said.

The camp’s goal was also to highlight potential careers in aviation, the instructor noted.

“You always think of piloting, but there’s TSA, (Federal Aviation Administration), airport management and support, mechanic work,” Jackson said. “There’s a whole bunch of things they could go into, whether they’re interested in a professional career in aviation or general aviation as a hobby.”

Jackson thanked the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport Support group, among others, for donating money for the Challenger Learning Center to fund six flight simulators and other activities.

“We couldn’t have gotten this off the ground without them,” he added.

(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)

Gallery offers closer look at sun

Photographer’s work in Chautauqua Co. free at Challenger Learning centers

Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 4:00 pm

'JOURNEY TO THE SUN' Fred Welch, Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center director, highlights “Journey to the Sun,” a gallery of highly detailed photos of the sun taken from ground level in Chautauqua County by photographer Ted Wolfe. The gallery will now be a semi-permanent fixture at the Challenger Learning Center in Allegany and will be available for free at each center in the country.

'JOURNEY TO THE SUN' Fred Welch, Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center director, highlights “Journey to the Sun,” a gallery of highly detailed photos of the sun taken from ground level in Chautauqua County by photographer Ted Wolfe. The gallery will now be a semi-permanent fixture at the Challenger Learning Center in Allegany and will be available for free at each center in the country.

By KELSEY BOUDIN, Olean Times Herald Olean Times Herald | 0 comments

ALLEGANY — A photo gallery featuring vivid, colorful photos of Earth’s closest star — taken from a Chautauqua County backyard — will now be a semi-permanent fixture at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center.

“Journey to the Sun” is a series of 16 framed pictures displaying the sun in excruciating detail. Taken from ground level by now-famed photographer Ted Wolfe, they highlight the sun as if viewed from a satellite near its orbit — capturing flares, sunspots and other highly reactive regions.

The exhibit will also be available for free at each of the more than 40 established Challenger Learning centers, said local center Director Fred Welch.

“Many of the pictures, I believe, were taken in Chautauqua because (Wolfe) has a camp out there,” Welch said. “What I’m told is he took many of these pictures over time with different lenses and different filters. He just is infatuated with the sun.

“These are all taken from the ground. They’re not pictures taken from satellites. This display has been around to different science museums.”

“Journey to the Sun” has also been featured at the National Roger Tory Peterson Center, the Jordan Science Center at the University of Notre Dame and the Miami Museum of Science. Some of Wolfe’s other space photography endeavors have also been displayed at the Kennedy Space Center and the Center for Space Studies at the University of Florida, Welch said. 

Efforts of longtime center supporters Phyllis and Dick Marcus, who are acquaintances of Wolfe, helped bring the gallery to Allegany, Welch said. 

“We’re hoping to get Ted Wolfe here this August. He’s going to be back in Chautauqua,” the center director added. 

Welch further noted the gallery fits particularly well with one segment of the D-R Challenger Learning Center’s space-science curriculum. Close-up pictures of the sun’s solar flares and other areas of major disturbances — which have the potential to unleash catastrophic solar storms that could crush power and technology grids on Earth — could better explain those realities to area students, he added. 

“We have a mission … (featuring) a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is threatening the satellites that are around planet Earth. One of the satellites goes down, and they have to launch another satellite to take over what the one that was destroyed did,” Welch said. “We define CME to the students, and I talk to them about how we’re becoming more and more dependent on our technology and that we are one large coronal mass ejection away from not having the electricity feed to run our infrastructure. 

“We can’t do anything about it other than to have systems ready. Many of the transformers that keep cities lit are very large things. You just don’t go out and plug another one in. It takes a while to manufacture them.” 

Other centers can request the gallery at any time, Welch said. 

(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin) 

Challenger Learning Center reveals new aviation program

Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 3:45 pm

By KELSEY BOUDIN, Olean Times Herald Olean Times Herald | 0 comments

ALLEGANY — The Dresser- Rand Challenger Learning Center is looking to get a Summer Aviation Camp off the ground — pardon the pun. 

The inaugural camp for area students entering eighth grade and up is scheduled for July 27 through 31, featuring the basics behind getting a private airplane pilot’s license, said center Director Fred Welch. 

“We’re offering that knowing that if we get them started and interested, maybe by the time they’re just out of high school or going into college some of them might be able to say they have a pilot’s license.” 

It will be available — in partnership with the Bradford (Pa.) Regional Airport and the Cattaraugus County-Olean Municipal Airport — for a base price of $279, Welch said. 

“They’ve seen a decline in the number of people who have pilot’s licenses that are using their facilities,” the director added. “It could be partly the declining population or some folks just not knowing it’s out there.” 

From Monday through Wednesday that week, campers will begin the day at the Bradford Regional Airport at 9 a.m., learning ground lessons and basic mechanic work, along with taking flight simulator training and other practice sessions. For the additional cost of $75 apiece, attendees can also take a one-hour flight — half of which can be spent in the control seat under close direction from a licensed pilot — or a ride in a World War II-era Stearman biplane. 

Carpooling will be available those days to leave at 8:30 a.m. from the Challenger Learning Center for Bradford, Welch said. 

The center is in the process of acquiring several flight simulators for additional lessons and preparations for simulation competitions that Friday. 

On Thursday that week, campers will carpool to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport for a real-world glimpse into its radar control room. 

IN OTHER NEWS, the center is also taking registration for its annual summer camp Aug. 3 to 7. 

Titled “Space Racers — 

Adventures in Space Exploration,” the camp is geared toward students entering fifth grade and up. It will cost $200 per child and $175 for additional family members. 

The activities, Welch noted, will include rockets, aviation, remote-controlled planes, reverse engineering, CO2 cars, a marble maze, team building and a full simulated space mission. The camp is limited to 30 attendees. 

Both camp sessions are sponsored by Dream It. Do It.- Western New York. 

To register for either camp, visit the center at 182 E. Union St., Allegany; email ChallengerCenterJP@gmail. com; call 379-8686 or visit

(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)

December 19, 2014 Olean Times Herald article

December 19, 2014 Olean Times Herald article


Olean Times Herald, Monday, October 20, 2014

By Kelsey M. Boudin

ALLEGANY-The Dresser Rand Challenger will sponsor a three-part lecture series in November titled “Exploring Science.”  

Slated for the first three Mondays next month, the talks will run in partnership with St. Bonaventure University and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (Pa.), organizers said.  The free, collegiate-level lectures will be open to the public, center Director Fred Welch said, noting organizers hope to attract large crowds of area high schoolers. 

“We were looking to have them come in and experience a college-level lecture,” Mr. Welch said.  “They know what it’s like in a high school setting, but when it comes to a college-level lecture, someone who’s really talking on the next level about a certain topic, we just wanted them to see adults who really have a passion for science.”

But in addition to high school pupils, Mr. Welch expects a mixed audience of college students, professors and science-geared members of the general public.  Interested middle school students and parents and guardians are also urged to attend.

The talks, each starting at 6 p.m., are:

  • Nov. 3 at St. Bonaventure’s Walsh Science Center amphitheater - Dr. Kevin Miller, a 2008 St. Bonaventure graduate and employee of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, will give a lecture titled “How I Got to NASA and What I am Doing There.”

  • Nov. 10 at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center, 182 E. Union St., Suite 2 - Dr. Taylor Pancoast, a chemistry professor at Jamestown Community College will present a lecture on reality and sound.

  • Nov. 17 at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. More information about the lecture will be provided by Matthew M. Kropf, director of the Energy Institute at the UPB, organizers said.

“It was great that we could have a way that we could tie out center with Bonaventure and also cross the border to Pitt-Bradford.” Mr. Welch said.  “It was pretty cool this year that we’re able to do three lectures at three different locations.  People can go to all of them or pick and choose the ones that are closer to them.”

The director said he hopes the audiences – especially high school students – benefit from the speakers’ specific scientific passions.

“It’s kind of interesting to see that craft, the craft of a decent orator or decent lecturer,” Mr. Welch added.  “It is broken down into understandable dialogue, but yet we’re talking about complex things.