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Final Beam Hoisted Into Place Atop Downtown Allentown, Pa.'s Da Vinci Science Center

Mon May 15, 2023 - Northeast Edition

The Curiosity Hall is one of the exhibits in the Da Vinci Science Center. (Da Vinci Science Center rendering)
The Curiosity Hall is one of the exhibits in the Da Vinci Science Center. (Da Vinci Science Center rendering)

Construction crews topped off another major milestone in the construction of the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion on May 9 in downtown Allentown, Pa.

Museum trustees, staff, elected officials, donors, partners and community members came together to watch the placement of the final steel beam on the structure, WFMZ-TV in Allentown reported. In addition, many of the Da Vinci Science Center's staff, board, donors and stakeholders signed the beam before it was hoisted into place.

The topping off tradition is rooted in the Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced during construction.

A twist in the tradition was added at the Da Vinci Science Center event, the museum said in a news release, in that passersby can look up and catch a glimpse of a North American River Otter donning a hard hat alongside the ceremonial tree to represent the live otters that will be residents of the new facility.

"The topping off is always an important milestone for the construction team," noted Greg Butz, president and CEO, Alvin H. Butz Inc., the Allentown-based contractor in charge of managing the construction project. "We are especially proud to raise the final beam on the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion because this project is a central piece of downtown Allentown's revitalization."

In addition to building the new facility, Butz also is a member of the science center's Campaign Leadership Committee, which is helping to raise funds for the new exhibit space.

Museum to House Exhibits for Young, Old Alike

First announced in 2019, the Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will be three stories tall, with more than 30,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space for visitors to learn about the inner workings of the human body and the complex relationship between humanity and the natural world.

When complete, the museum also will feature three other main exhibit areas: Curiosity Hall, Science in the Making and Lehigh River Watershed, as well as the Da Vinci STEAM Learning Center, the incubator for onsite and community-based STEAM programming, designed to integrate the arts with science, technology, engineering and math.

"In addition to being a major attraction for the region, the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion will be a regional center of excellence for STEAM education, and a workforce development partner to area businesses for high demand fields," explained Lin Erickson, the museum's executive director and CEO.

"[It] will be a key contributor to the local and regional economy both directly and indirectly by helping to inspire and educate the next generation of engineers, scientists, innovators and programmers. We can't wait for the new science center to open its doors and provide access to educational resources for the 17,000 students in the Allentown School District as well as those throughout the region."

According to the news release, Da Vinci Science Center officials noted the Lehigh Valley Health Network's (LVHN) My Body exhibit is being developed collaboratively with LVHN's clinical and education staff and will highlight the latest advancements in health care and medicine, including STEM career pathways within rapidly expanding health care companies throughout the valley.

"At LVHN, there is nothing more central to our mission than to help every member of our community live their healthiest life, and we believe the LVHN My Body exhibit is emblematic of that commitment," said Brian A. Nester, president and chief executive officer of the regional health system. "Not only will this facility educate people about their health, [but it will also] entice children and their parents to explore career options in health care at a time when there is a growing need for health care professionals nationwide."

The design team behind the Da Vinci Science Center's new downtown facility includes MKSD Architects, Barry Isset & Associates, HB Engineers – all from Allentown – and Roto Design Firm, a global design firm in Dublin, Ohio that delivers interactive exhibits, immersive media and master plans for top museums and aquariums.

Officials from the Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion said that the museum is slated to open in spring 2024.

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