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Science is a big hit in Bemidji

Bemidji may just have the next Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz, Raj Koothrappali, Amy Farrah Fowler or, dare we say, Sheldon Cooper waiting in the wings.

And if we do, you can bet they got their start at the Headwaters Science Center.

Unless you've been living in a cave, the above names should be familiar. They are all characters on the hit TV show "The Big Bang Theory." In short, the show revolves around the life and times of the friends, who are all (except Penny) connected to science and engineering in some way. Science plays a big role in the show, from the individual names of episodes, to the overall subject matter.

One such episode is when Leonard and Sheldon have the chance to meet their childhood idol, the former host of a kids' TV science program. They tell of how they were inspired to become scientists by the daily visit from "Professor Proton."

Here in Bemidji, our Professor Protons are the founders, administrators and staff of the Headwaters Science Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past weekend.

"Twenty years is a milestone," Susan Joy, HSC executive director, told reporter Bethany Wesley last week. "It's a really big achievement for a nonprofit, for a business, to be around 20 years, to have survived the economic downturn of '08."

As Wesley reported, the HSC has about 25,000 annual visitors to see the multitude of exhibits, hands-on projects and collections.

That's a lot of people coming through the doors, most of them children. The center has hosted numerous class field trips from schools, locally and from the surrounding area.

Possibly because the U.S. is trailing other countries in test scores, or it may be just the simple fact on how fast technology changes, but educators, administrators and the business world have put science on the front burner in the past decade. You've probably heard or read about STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in stories on education. But it reaches beyond the classroom and into almost all aspects of our lives. What is technology if not science?

Bemidji is lucky to have the HSC. We are fortunate that our children and local students can get access to the type of learning and discovery taking place there. What a bonus for our community. As Wesley reported, communities the size of Bemidji often don't have anything compared with the HSC, usually that's just for the larger communities such as Minneapolis or St. Paul. In fact, only about five communities the size of Bemidji have such centers -- nationwide.

"We belong to the Bemidji community," Joy told Wesley. "We belong to the community we serve."

So, here's a Happy Birthday to the HSC and a thank you to the founders, especially Laddie and Jim Elwell, who played such a big role in the HSC's development and growth.

"It's a testament to Laddie's vision that we even exist," Joy told Wesley. "It's a testament to the community."

Thank you.