Library launches ‘THINK Hub’

Sam Odrowski

The Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre recently partnered with Sudbury’s Science North to bring a special installation to the community.

The “Northern THINK Hub,” which is modelled after the popular THINK visitor experience at Science North, was launched at the library last Friday.

The interactive exhibit allows visitors to experiment and innovate with never before accessed equipment, tools and resources, based around the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“Science North has made every effort to ensure this initiative will be successful in providing captivating, enjoyable hands-on and educational science related programming for the general public,” said Coun. Andrew Hallikas at the library on Friday during the THINK Hub’s launch.

“I compliment Science North on their attention to detail and their thoroughness in taking all steps possible to see this program succeed,” he added.

In addition to Fort Frances, THINK Hub’s were installed at libraries in Timmins, North Bay, Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Sioux Ste. Marie with $1 million in funding provided by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).

Local MPP Greg Rickford, who’s the director of NOHFC, attended the THINK Hub’s launch on Friday and lauded Science North’s partnership with the local library.

“I’m really happy to be here because a ways back, when I was the federal minister, I was actually involved in supporting the development of the technology component of this magnificent building with Mayor [Roy] Avis, so to be able to bring some additional programming here, for you guys to experience, is really important to me,” Rickford said during the THINK Hub’s launch.

“I’m very appreciative of the work Science North has done and it’s on this basis that we were able to come here today and . . . bring something from quite far away . . . right here to the Fort Frances Library Technology Centre.”

Several years ago when Rickford served as the federal minister responsible for FedNor, the economic development portfolio of northern Ontario, he visited Science North and worked on various projects for the interactive science museum.

At the time, he said he met with Science North’s CEO Guy Labine and stressed the importance of launching science projects that reach the more distant parts of northern Ontario–and not just Sudbury.

“I challenged, in a positive way, Science North to think about being Science North, that it couldn’t and shouldn’t be ‘Science Sudbury,'” Rickford remarked.

“In my previous capacity, but more importantly and especially in the past year and a half, I’ve developed an incredible relationship with a great team at Science North and I said look, in future funding models and projects, lets make sure that some of this is physically located in northwestern Ontario,” he added.

Labine said Rickford has been a “great motivator” for spreading Science North’s programming across the region and inspired them to think about how they can be a better asset for the Ontario government in its northern regions.

“My team gets injected with a DNA that says Science North as oppose to ‘Science Sudbury’ and it is thanks to your MPP,” Labine noted during the THINK Hub announcement at the library.

“Our ability to connect with northern Ontario is really a thrill, so we’re very happy to work in partnership with the library to leverage this investment that will benefit the people of Fort Frances for years to come.”

“You’ve taken an investment and made it even better in being able to engage a variety of audiences in STEM education,” he added.

Meanwhile, one of the goals stated in Science North’s Strategic Plan is increased partnerships in key communities.

“The Fort Frances Public Library also embraces partnerships as a means to leverage increased programming and services to our community and we are very grateful to Science North for their decision to consider us a key community,” Coun. Hallikas lauded.

“Most library’s including this one, do an excellent job at providing appropriate programming and services to their patrons . . . However, often the programming related to STEM is limited and thus there is a gap in some library programming.”

Science North’s THINK Hub initiative addresses that gap, Coun. Hallikas remarked.

“Thanks to Science North, the FFPLTC will be able to provide hands on entertaining and fun STEM education to patrons of any age, daily,” he said.

“They are providing this library with the tools, equipment, training and resources necessary to make the science programming that we will offer, fun and accessible to all, with an emphasis on hands-on learning and experimentation.”

Mayor June Caul said as a retired teacher she is thrilled to see a partnership develop between Science North and the library.

“Together, children and parents will have the opportunity to obtain the unique and varied activities at our library or community hub that Science North can offer,” she explained.

“I look forward to seeing this partnership evolve to give our youth the opportunity to learn the different facets that science can teach them through hands on activities.”

It’s anticipated that 275,000 people will experience the THINK Hub every year at its six locations spread across northern Ontario.