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Making a splash: As STEAM Lab opens, water challenge launched

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STEAM Lab activities will combine the technology available in the state-of-the-art lab and the citizen science involved in the EarthEcho Water Challenge.

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The Daily Reflector

Monday, March 19, 2018

With a water challenge and a new STEAM lab, Greenville is prepared to make a splash this week.

On Thursday, River Park North will host the launch event for the EarthEcho Water Challenge and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park's Love A Sea Turtle STEAM Lab.

The launch is part of the United Nations World Water Day in which more than 1.5 million citizens in 143 countries conserve and protect water resources around the globe. In conjunction with the launch event, River Park North will host the grand opening and ribbon cutting of its Love A Sea Turtle STEAM Lab located in the Walter L. Stasavich Science and Nature Center. The lab includes the only permanent EarthEcho water testing lab in the country.

The day will begin with local students taking part in water quality testing at the park around 9 a.m. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the lab will be held at noon, and the lab will remain open until 1 p.m. for guests to tour.

Activities throughout the day will combine the technology available in the state-of-the-art lab and the citizen science involved in the EarthEcho Water Challenge.

"We have increased the quality of experience and connections we can facilitate with parks visitors," Greenville Parks Coordinator Christopher Horrigan said of the lab, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. "There's nothing else like this in Greenville."

Murals around the lab bring the park indoors with images of the parklands during the day and night. Visitors can swim with whales or fly through the sky using the lab's virtual reality system. An augmented reality sandbox also allows users to dig in to see the impact their actions have on water and the ecosystem. A microscope display allows multiple users to study in a collaborative way.

The opening of the lab and being selected as the launch site for the EarthEcho World Water Challenge is a culmination of years of partnership and work by Love a Sea Turtle and Greenville Recreation and Parks staff.

"This is a very exciting time to be part of the City of Greenville," Love A Sea Turtle's Dan Sokolovic said of the lab opening and Challenge launch. "We are looking forward to seeing it grow. We are thrilled to be part of it."

Beginning on March 31, the lab will be open to the public on weekends. Through a partnership with STEM Core East at East Carolina University, Americorps students will run the lab for weekend visitors. During the week, school groups, home school classes and scouts will be the focus of the lab.

ECU's Lab School at South Greenville Elementary School also will have programs at the STEAM Lab. Love A Sea Turtle and Recreation and Parks summer camps will take campers through programing at the lab as well.

This year marks the 17th edition of the EarthEcho Water Challenge, which kicks off with community events worldwide hosted by sponsor Xylem Watermark. Through the simple actions of testing water quality locally, sharing data internationally and taking action to protect water resources, individuals, schools, businesses and community organizations help make their communities healthier and more sustainable.

"EarthEcho believes one of the best ways we can make our communities stronger and safer is by understanding and preserving the natural resources that sustain us," EarthEcho International founder, Philippe Cousteau said. "Clean water is the life blood of every community and each of us can play an important role in making sure our waterways are healthy and protected. The EarthEcho Water Challenge is designed to put the tools of change into the hands of people everywhere."

The EarthEcho Water Challenge runs annually from March 22 through December 31.

For more information about the EarthEcho Water Challenge launch event or the Love A Sea Turtle STEAM Lab, contact Christopher Horrigan at 329-4562.

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