LINCOLNTON – A stalled proposal to convert downtown’s Block Smith Gym into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) science center has taken on a new life, as Edward and Ariel McFadden have changed course with the opening of D-Xperience After School Care and Summer Camp.
Edward McFadden, an engineer at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station, is the founder of STEM Career Path Project Inc., a nonprofit established in 2012 to raise awareness among students about the various careers in the STEM fields.
“The thing that inspired me to give is that there are kids like me, who have the intelligence to succeed, but don’t necessarily get the exposure to the resources they need,” he said. “STEM Career Path Project was more of a service in that we’d take our programming to places where kids already were, like schools or the YMCA. Now, with D-Xperience, the kids will be coming to us so we’ll see them more regularly, and with that I think there’s much more opportunity for growth and development.”
He approached the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners in 2016 with his vision for a STEM Science Center in Lincolnton. Ultimately, the renovation of Block Smith Gym proved too costly, but that didn’t deter the McFaddens.
With Edward’s expertise in engineering and Ariel’s nearly two decades of experience in the childcare industry, including her most recent stint as site coordinator for the YMCA after-school program at St. James Elementary School, after-school care and summer camps were always a part of their vision for the science center.
“When I was pursuing the science center, an after-school program was always a component of that,” Edward McFadden said. “We decided to give the Block Smith Gym back to the county in the fall, but there’s still a need for STEM education and after-school care in the community, and it’s still something that we’re very passionate about.”
Once it was clear that the gym renovation wouldn’t come to fruition, the McFaddens purchased a building on Startown Road that will be home to D-Xperience, which will provide after-school and summer care with a curriculum based in hands-on STEM activities and programs.
“There’s a huge need in Lincolnton,” Ariel McFadden said. “There’s a need everywhere, but we really wanted to target the area with the biggest need, so we went back and forth between Lincolnton and Denver. The biggest need in Lincolnton is affordability, and there are a lot of kids who sit at home by themselves because their parents can’t afford to send multiple kids to camp.”
Similar programming will be offered through the after-school program and the summer camp, with the main difference being the opportunity to take more field trips during the summer. Programming for younger children includes activities with Legos, lab activities, hands-on science experiments, programming robots and much more, while the older children will tackle more advanced activities like building power plant models, launching rockets and creating tornados from dry ice.
“When you think about your typical summer camp, you have kids running around on the playground all day or drawing pictures, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we just want to give people a different product,” Edward McFadden said. “We want to make sure that most of everything that we offer at our facility is transferable to the real world. We don’t want kids in there wasting time, so they’ll be doing architecture activities on the computer or in the lab looking through the microscope at different organisms because we want to make sure that their time spent with us is truly meaningful.”
D-Xperience will celebrate its grand opening at 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 17, at 1366 Startown Road in Lincolnton. Its STEM Summer Camp, which will run from May to August, is open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The after-school portion of the program will go into effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
For more information or to register, visit www.d-xperience.org or call 803-260-4517.