St. Petersburg College unveils plans for new marine science center in Bay Pines


SEMINOLE– About 20 people, plus 10 with council members, slowly filtered into City Hall for the Seminole City Council meeting on a damp Tuesday, to hear matters of the city and state.

Florida House Representative Larry Ahearn, R-District 66, spoke first about the current legislative priorities for the upcoming year. A challenge of a flood insurance proposal, a fight for a sales tax holiday increase, in-depth comparisons of yellow light time standards to other cities for better driving cohesion, and laws concerning the murder of pregnant women are all currently on the representative’s agenda. Mayor Leslie Waters accepted his plans and promptly stated that she and other local mayors will soon speak with the representative about “what truly matters to cities.”

Council member Chris Burke then presented Fire Chief Heather Burford with a proclamation declaring March 25 as City of Seminole Fire Rescue Open House Safety Day.

The council also passed an ordinance allowing the Rotary Club of Seminole to sell wine and beer at the Pow Wow kick-off event the club will host at Seminole City Park, approved funds to replace deteriorating storm water pipes, and the selection of the Charter Review Committee members.

The main excitement of the evening came when St. Petersburg College provost, Jim Oliver, gave the Seminole City Council an update on the plans for the Bay Pines Marine Science Center. Oliver, along with SPC biology professors Dr. Meg Delgato and Dr. Linae Boehme, presented the council with an outline of functions and rendered drawings of the three-building center.

Designed for improved student engagement and learning success in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) the center will be a hands-on learning center that will open opportunities for students to collaborate and research. The center is also touted as being a community resource that will not only lead to increased awareness of STEM related subjects and issues but also provide professional development for SPC instructors and other local schools.

“We want to see students having success in college and moving on to further success,” said Oliver. “This center will get students engaged in important hands-on activities.”

The center will be located along the mangrove-scattered shores of the inlet affectionately called the “Hurricane Hole” next to the Bay Pines VA Medical Center and will not be traditional education buildings, says Oliver.

“We want everything going on inside the classroom to be seen by passerby’s of the center to mimic a realistic setting.”

Smart devices will be able to sync with the environment and give information it. Students will be able to make projects

Dr. Delgato presented the programming outcomes of the center. Staff development, a STEM certificate, in-service training, conferences, summer institutes, including camps targeted at gaining diversity in the field, science fairs and citizen science projects are all possible outcomes of developing the center.

Dr. Boehme passionately presented current and possible partnerships between the center’s project directors and groups such as the Pinellas County Schools, the Institute of Oceanography and the United States Geological Survey. Her comments about taking students down to current site to collect samples and conduct original research, giving the students important career skills, struck the mayor’s interests.

“What I want to know is, how do we sign up for your class?”

Again taking the floor, Oliver told the council that along with supporting college values the Bay Pines project would create a culture of curiosity about STEM.

The problem? SPC has only half of the necessary funding to create such a center.

Turning to State Representative, Larry Ahern, who was seated two rows behind the podium, Oliver said, “That’s where he may come in.”

Once the funding is secured the project will take at least 6-9 months of construction to build. One concern the council did have with the plans was the plan for parking. Only fifty spaces were drawn into plans leaving the mayor to wonder how a conference could work in such a space.

“Well,” Oliver said, “there are always shuttles, and that big, beautiful development of hotels and condominiums going up right across the way should handle that.”

Mayor Waters smiled, “Best of luck Mr. Oliver, we hope to see another update on construction soon.”


Published by Amanda Corman Pedro


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