Did you know that high-speed photography was invented at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG)? That the first computer, the ENIAC, was created and operated at APG? That every bomb-sniffing dog can trace its roots to APG? How about the world’s first emails being sent via the ARPANet?
We have an incredible brain-trust at APG that for 100 years has developed world-changing technology for soldiers and civilians. The Discovery Center at Water’s Edge leverages this brain trust for the benefit of the public, particularly our students who must be STEM literate to succeed today.
The Discovery Center will be a place where students of all ages experience, create, and play with science and technology. A place where new worlds are discovered, and connections are made. Exhibits featuring virtual reality will give visitors the opportunity to drive a tank or fly a plane. Other exhibits will explore the history and the future of high performance computing. In addition to interactive exhibits, the Discovery Center will offer after-school programs, maker spaces, and serve as an anchor for the region’s STEM activities.
We are now working to launch Phase 1 of the Discovery Center – the “Preview” Center at Water’s Edge complex in Belcamp, MD. The Preview Center will serve as a visitor’s center, work space, exhibit area, and will provide funders and visitors a small taste of what will be found at the permanent Discovery Center in 2023.
Phase 2 of this project will result in the opening of a permanent Discovery Center with 10,000-SF of exhibit space, serving over 55,000 visitors each year, and costing approximately $2.7 million. We then hope in Phase 3 to grow the Center to 35,000 SF serving 100,000 visitors each year. These estimates are supported by a feasibility study commissioned last year.
This project is led by the APG Centennial Celebration Association, a 501c3 founded to support APG’s centennial celebration and to help replace the US Army Ordnance Museum that was moved to Fort Lee, VA in 2011. The Discovery Center is that replacement. We have a very successful track record. Last year we helped organize and publicize over 150 centennial programs and events, including establishing the APG Memorial in Aberdeen, and we raised over $250,000 in grants and donations to support these programs. Many organizations supported this effort and continue in their support of the Discovery Center, some making multi-year pledges.
Harford County lost a major asset and its largest tourist attraction when the Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) was closed due to Base Realignment and Closure legislation and moved to Fort Lee in 2011. At its peak, the Ordnance Museum was drawing over 200,000 visitors per year and was an economic driver for the region.
In 2014, a team of former APG employees and concerned business leaders began discussions on creating a replacement for the Ordnance Museum. Recognizing that APG’s 100th Anniversary was an opportune time to tell the story of APG’s many contributions to national defense and civilian life, the APG Centennial Celebration Association (ACCA) was formed as a 501c3 nonprofit to assist APG in developing a comprehensive program of events and educational activities to commemorate its long history in celebration of APG’s Centennial year. We helped develop a year-long plan of over 150 events to celebrate the region’s 100-year history. Our long-term goal was to leverage a successful centennial year into a replacement for the APG Ordnance Museum. The Discovery Center at Water’s Edge is that replacement.
Once the centennial year (2017) was concluded, the ACCA Board turned to building the foundation for the Discovery Center. The Board has been expanded to include more community partners, is responding to the feasibility study commissioned to explore if the region could support the proposed Discovery Center, developing a comprehensive business plan, and outlining a capital campaign strategy.
The Board holds a clear vision for the Discovery Center at Water’s Edge: a place where students of all ages explore, experience, invent, create, and play with technology, leading them to a greater understanding of the scientific principles at play and the history of that technology’s development.
The goal is to develop the Discovery Center into the most visited tourist attraction north of Baltimore. We want families, retirees, history buffs, and students from all around the Mid-Atlantic to travel to the Discovery Center to explore science and technology and be inspired to innovate. We want to tell the stories of the region’s rich technology heritage and contribution to society and create an interactive space where we can light a fire of discovery in students of all ages and from all backgrounds.
For 100 years, Harford County has been home to some of the most brilliant minds in science and technology. Their inventions have changed how people live, work, and play around the globe. It is only fitting that Harford County is also home to a world-class Discovery Center.
Former Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill keynotes the APG Centennial Kick-Off Social on January 31, 2018.