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The following article appeared June 6, 2003 in the

 Charting a course for science

By Nicole T. Lesson
Staff Writer

    Pembroke Pines ˇ Students are about to get more hands-on experience in a classroom that has been transformed into a science and technology center.

    Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School students will be learning to forecast the weather, explore fossils and minerals, and use a computer-controlled automatic telescope. "This will give kids a more hands-on experience than a standard science classroom," said Barry Perlman, the science teacher who oversees the center. "I am excited and I wanted to get use of the equipment, but we got it so close to the end of the [school] year. In August, we will re-set everything up and all the science teachers will work out a schedule for the students."

    The center, which opened April 30, has rock, mineral and fossil collections, a lightning detection system, butterflies, bug and insect displays and other scientific items, thanks to donations made mostly by a Boca Raton businessman.

    Perlman said he has not seen science items like this in a school, but he has in museums. "We have museum-grade fossils from 500 million years ago to a few million years ago," said Perlman, who has been a teacher for more than 20 years.

    In the fall, students will create a weather station to forecast the weather. Sensors permanently connected to the roof of the school will monitor the temperature and wind speed, and there will be rain buckets to collect water. "Then we will tie it into computers and keep long-term stats," Perlman said.

    In addition, a lightning detection system mounted on the wall can register bolts up to 60 miles away.

    The science and technology center was made possible by Richard Newman, who has loved science and technology since his youth. He wants to expose youngsters to the learning aspects of science. "It makes [science] available to a much greater range of kids in a structured environment," he said.

    For three years, Newman has been helping to open science and technology centers at Boy Scout camps all over the country, including in New York, Washington and Texas. The Seminole Boy Scout Camp in Davie was the 11th center to open.

    Now, the program is expanding to schools, and the Pembroke Pines site was the first in the nation. Another center opened this week in a middle school on the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes' Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana.

    Newman, who has agreed to sponsor the Pembroke Pines school's science fair next year, said Perlman put a lot of effort into getting the center opened. "Mr. Perlman did a fantastic job setting up the center, and I will use that as a model for other schools," he said.

    Last fall, Newman got in touch with the school after hearing about Perlman and the students sending a science experiment up on the space shuttle Columbia. He underwrote some of the costs associated with the experiment to see how space would affect crystals. The experiment was thought to have been lost when the shuttle exploded and killed its seven crewmembers on Feb. 1. But investigators found the crystals, which were recently returned to the school.

    The new science center is formally known as High-Tech Science and Technology Center at Pembroke Pines Charter School, which Newman named after his company's Web site. The Boca Raton-based company, High-Tech Productions, converts, transfers and duplicates videos and DVDs.

    Newman said he scours the world looking for items to display in the science centers by using his worldwide contacts, the E-Bay Internet auction site and by making purchases from stores, distributors and manufacturers. "I have bought items from cosmonauts in Russia, geodes from workers in Brazil, space items from NASA engineers, posters and displays from the European, Russian, Chinese and French space agencies," said Newman, 47. "I would love to open at least 50 centers in all 50 states by the time I'm 50."

    Newman also has some aquariums and ant farms he wants to donate to the Pembroke Pines center, but will hold onto them until the start of the new school year. Perlman wants to add other items to the center. He plans to bring in a seismograph and a radio telescope.

    "More and more kids are getting into science. About 50 percent show an interest and about 10 to 20 percent show an extreme interest," he said.

    Sixth-grader Andrew James said he looks forward to next year's lessons. "Mr. Perlman showed us the Geiger counter and how it reacts to radioactivity by starting to beep," said Andrew, 12. "We will get to work the weather system next year, and there is a lot of other cool stuff to play around with."

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