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A Spark! for STEM

 By MANDY STANAGE SHOPTAW | Photography by RETT PEEK | Hair by Kennedy Whitlock with Red Beauty Lounge | Makeup by Jax Sexton with Red Beauty Lounge

   Over the years, the Museum of Discovery has become more than just a cool tourist spot featured on The Tonight Show. It is a place that encourages children to aim higher and dream bigger when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (better known as STEM). The annual Spark! event welcomes STEM-loving adults who get to spend a fun-filled evening at a museum usually geared towards kids.  Hosts Gina and Wade Radke guarantee a few surprises at this year’s festivities.

   “I don’t want to give too much away about the exciting things we have planned, but there will be an artist painting in unison with live music. It’s a fun dramatic touch that was my husband Wade’s idea,” says Gina, CEO of Galley Support Innovation, that manufactures aviation latches, pulls and more. “The great thing about Spark! is you actually get to ‘play’ on the exhibits without looking like the weird adult who won’t let the kids have a turn. The Tesla coil is always a hit, but my favorite experiment is the glassblowing with local artist James Hayes. I was shocked at how hard it was to actually blow glass!”

   “Spark! is really unlike any other fundraiser in town, in large part because of what it’s not,” explains Museum of Discovery Chief Executive Officer Kelley Bass. There is no formal dinner or speeches. “At Spark!, the party really never stops. We feature cool science and technology on display all over the museum.”

   “I got involved when I was honored as a Spark! Star in 2017,” explains Gina. Spark! Stars are Arkansans who have pursued careers in industries that require the intensive study of science, technology and math. This year nine Spark! Stars will be honored at the annual Spark! Luncheon. “Being a Spark! Star reminded me of how important the museum is to ignite a passion for STEM in young people. It’s experiences like a field trip to the museum that open up a whole wide world of options for young people. Often times it’s the first time a child has thought about the science behind how things work.”

   Gina’s business serves a unique niche in the aviation industry and as an innovative entrepreneur she recognizes the importance of strong female leadership for younger women. “I didn’t have a female STEM role model as I was growing up,” Gina reflects. “That’s why it’s so important to me to be that role model for others. I have learned that you never know when a spark will ignite in a child or young person.” Her family enjoys trips to the museum as well, “We added to our family by adoption and one day I was talking about the Museum of Discovery and one of my sons got so excited. He told me about a time when a teacher paid for him to go on a field trip to the museum. He loved it and it was one of his favorite memories in a very tough life. He learned about how sound worked that day and that began a life-long love of stereo and speaker systems.”

   Proceeds from Spark! support the statewide program Girls in STEM and make available Accessibility Scholarships for programs, such as schools with low-income populations, wishing to visit the museum.

   The Museum of Discovery’s mission is to fuel a passion for science, technology, engineering, arts and math through dynamic, interactive experiences. Kelley encourages everyone to experience this fun learning environment and realize the impact it can have as children consider career choices saying, “The Museum of Discovery plays an important role in the STEM education pipeline of Arkansas and the STEM workforce development pipeline of Arkansas.”

Inviting Arkansas
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