Axalta Coating Systems teamed up with the Detroit Science Center Feb. 13 to provide free admission for the public. They also brought along displays about light and color.

Axalta Coating Systems teamed up with the Detroit Science Center Feb. 13 to provide free admission for the public. They also brought along displays about light and color.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Science Center offers free admission days thanks to local businesses

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published February 18, 2021

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 Detroit Science Center educator Julia Marsh talks about the variables that can cause changes in the growth of plants at the Step into the Limelight exhibit.

Detroit Science Center educator Julia Marsh talks about the variables that can cause changes in the growth of plants at the Step into the Limelight exhibit.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The Detroit Science Center hosted a free admission day thanks to a partnership with Axalta Coating Systems.

The Detroit Science Center hosted a free admission day thanks to a partnership with Axalta Coating Systems.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

DETROIT — The Michigan Science Center is welcoming in more people than ever with its free admission days.

Each free day is sponsored by local businesses. The first of 2021 took place Feb. 13 and was made possible by Axalta Coating Systems.

“We’ve been working with Axalta for a number of years, and one of the things we do together is put on community free days,” said Michigan Science Center President and CEO Christian Greer. “They can connect with the community and do so through STEM. It gives us a chance to highlight science, technology, engineering and math and how they are used by companies like Axalta in the real world. It also lets us engage the public in a hands-on proactive way.”

Nancy Lockhart, the global color manager for Axalta, which supplies coating services for numerous companies including several in the auto industry, said teaming up with the Michigan Science Center was a natural partnership.

“Axalta has been a longtime sponsor for the Michigan Science Center, and we value the STEM education it brings to the community,” she said. “The Michigan Science Center has been something dear to our hearts, because not only is it something that we see value in for the community, but it’s the community that we live in. Axalta is in Mount Clemens and Clinton Township, so giving back to our community is something we love to do.”

Greer said that offering opportunities to experience science free of charge is important, because cost often serves as a barrier for people to take advantage of resources such as the science center.

“We waive general admission, which is usually $18 for adults and $14 for kids and seniors. Now they can just come in for free,” he said. “There is sometimes a barrier when it comes to the cost of admission when it comes to STEM. Some people just can’t afford those opportunities in their hierarchy of needs. There’s no judgment on that, but we want to try to lower those barriers on something like a Saturday when they can get off work and come in with their families.”

Axalta hosts one of the science center’s free days once a year and uses the opportunity to bring in some interesting lessons for the public.

“One of the things we like to do, because we’re so involved in color and coating, is we bring our color of the year here and have it on display. We also have some exhibits we do with partners. We brought in Six Rivers Land Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited,” said Lockhart. “The messaging we have is all about STEM education and what it means to the community and how it relates to conservation and sustainability. Last year, our color of the year was ‘sea glass,’ and we talked about water conservation. This year we moved to the land, and our color ‘electrolyte’ was inspired by nature. It’s a very bright green and is a very exciting, energetic color, so today we are talking about photosynthesis and what it means to plants and the environment.”

Matt Bolland, Axalta’s vice president of technology for the transportation business, added that fostering STEM education is a crucial goal for companies.

“We are a technology and science company first, so offering days like this where we bring children and young minds in and see the importance of science, and see how there are careers in science, we want to keep growing our talent in Detroit,” said Bolland. “What we ultimately supply is technology solutions. The foundation of that is new people coming up and coming up with new ideas and driving the next generation of coding solutions. We don’t want to go out of our area to get scientists and engineers; we want to find them right here.”

Many of the families who took advantage of the free day Feb. 13 said it was a wonderful opportunity, especially when finding safe outings during COVID-19 can be difficult.

“This is our first time here and it’s amazing,” said Troy resident Jessica Hanna. “We’re home-schooling right now, so we’re taking advantage of a chance to get out of the house and do something. My husband is a resident at Sinai Grace (Hospital), so finances for us are tight. We have six kids, so we don’t have a lot of chances to get out with all of the kids if something is too expensive.”

“They get to learn a little something extra,” added Geneva Jones, of Redford. “With COVID going on, it’s hard to get out and go to places. This is actually our first time going anywhere public in months, and what better way than going somewhere you can learn something new about science. We tried growing a garden last year, but they had a display here about how plants grow, and that was really interesting for all of us.”

Future free days are still being planned, but the public can see when they are scheduled on the Michigan Science Center’s website, www.mi-sci.org.

Greer said finding ways to be both effective and safe is a challenge with COVID-19 going on, but he is happy to report that the science center staff has been successful at it.

“This is the first one we’ve done this year. We’re all really excited behind the scenes because although we’ve been open since July 10 of last year, we haven’t had a single case of COVID-19 traced back to the science center because we’ve taken rich precautions and strict protocols,” he explained. “People may not realize we were rated one of the top 10 safest places for families to go to in Detroit, and one of only two indoor facilities on that list. … The thing about science centers like ours is that they are hands-on and you are discovering for yourself. Many are concerned about opening with that attitude with COVID-19, but we have taken a lot of steps to make sure people can still learn here.”

He added that he’s glad the free days are helping make that possible.

“Our value proposition to our community and to the state of Michigan as a whole is that we put you in the center of science,” said Greer. “A lot of people don’t consider themselves at the center of science because they don’t consider themselves scientific thinkers, yet everyone thinks about things like when they hear about an asteroid coming between the Earth and the moon, or if there’s a solar eclipse, or even the information coming out about the (COVID-19) vaccine. We want to be that place to help explain these things and demystify it.”