FSU Receives $1 million in federal funding to create a virtual simulation lab at the Christa McAuliffe Center

FSU Receives $1 million in federal funding to create a virtual simulation lab at the Christa McAuliffe Center

Mar 13, 2024

Last week, the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation helped secure $1 million in federal funding to create a state-of-the-art simulation lab in the newly renovated Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning at Framingham State University.

The McAuliffe Simulation Lab (MSL) will feature high-resolution visualizations and virtual reality simulations that put STEM learning into real-world contexts. Its programming will complement learning experiences in the Center’s upgraded Challenger Learning Center and refurbished digital planetarium, and further establish the McAuliffe Center as a unique STEM learning hub in the Commonwealth.

The appeal of NASA’s space and earth science missions combined with the power of shared VR simulations provide a sound platform for students to deepen their STEM engagement.

“Learning becomes meaningful when STEM concepts are put into real-world contexts,” says McAuliffe Center Director Dr. Irene Porro. “VR simulations will allow students to experience high-risk work scenarios in a risk-free way, from exploring an off-shore wind farm to piloting a space shuttle, opening possibilities unimaginable to them before.”

The McAuliffe Center held a grand reopening ceremony in January following a nearly $8 million renovation and revitalization project. The new simulation lab will further enhance what is already a one-of-its-kind interactive learning facility in Massachusetts, says FSU President Nancy S. Niemi.

“I invite anyone who has a passion for exploration and experiential learning to plan a visit to our campus and see this unique center, which continues to honor the legacy of our beloved alumna Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space,” says President Niemi. “On behalf of the entire FSU community, I wish to thank Senator Markey, Senator Warren, Congresswoman Clark and the entire Massachusetts Congressional Delegation for securing this important funding.”

The type of enhanced visualizations and simulations the McAuliffe Simulation Lab will offer increase STEM engagement, retention, and aspirations for all students, but especially for those traditionally underrepresented and those most underserved, according to Porro.

To fully engage Massachusetts’ culturally diverse audiences with NASA-unique STEM resources, the McAuliffe Center will apply cultural translation, transdisciplinary learning, and contextualization strategies to the design of learning experiences that feature digital resources produced, for example, by NASA’s Science Visualization Studio and Conceptual Image Laboratory.

The engagement tools and simulation capabilities made available through the MSL will also promote collaboration among Framingham State University, industry, K-16 education, workforce and economic development

The McAuliffe Center funding was part of a $175 million packaged secured by the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation last week.

“Community and civic leaders across Massachusetts are dedicated to making the state a healthier, cleaner, safer, and more just place to live. I am proud, with my Congressional delegation partners, to bring important investments directly to municipalities and neighborhoods across Massachusetts,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “These investments will improve our essential infrastructure, expand public transportation access, support the development of affordable housing, invest in clean drinking water, promote climate resiliency, and help build a more livable future.” 

“I fought for these federal investments to help make a real difference in local communities across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “A new fire station in Quincy. Cleaner water in Gloucester. Better protection against climate change in New Bedford. This is important work alongside local leaders to improve basic infrastructure and lower costs for working families.” 

“These investments will touch so many lives in our community,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark, whose district includes FSU. “This federal funding will help clean our air and water, enable the construction of new community gathering spaces, and advance our work of building climate readiness and resiliency. I want to thank my partners in local and state government for helping me identify these critical priorities. This is how our elected leaders should operate: partnering together to deliver for families back home.”

To learn more about Framingham State University’s McAuliffe Center, visit http://cm-center.org/.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.