Sky is the limit: Grand Universe, Purdue partnership has successful launch

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Greg McCauley figures this is one giant leap for Grand Universe.

The partnership between Purdue University and Westfield-based Grand Universe focuses on the design, development and global distribution of STEM-focused digital media that inspires and engages people of all ages, said McCauley, Grand Universe president and CEO.

McCauley, a Westfield resident, wants to make Grand Universe a world-class observatory, planetarium and space center, to be built on a 68-acre lot just east of Grand Park.

The partnership with Purdue began in September 2020.

“We are excited to be able to work with Purdue University to create a new era in STEM engagement” McCauley said. “Virtual technologies and web-based digital media have now taken a leading role in connecting students with educational programming, and our new partnership with Purdue and extensive contact with a variety of NASA scientists, engineers and mission specialists will take these technologies to a whole new level.”

McCauley said the Digital Media Team from Grand Universe will travel across the U.S. creating a unique internet video series on the world of science and technology. The series will be produced and directed through a joint effort with Purdue.

The Grand Universe digital team has visited Purdue’s PRIME, which stands for Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory, a dedicated research and user facility for accelerator mass spectrometry.

“We did some STEM engagement video work for our channels,” McCauley said.

Astronaut David Wolf, an Indianapolis resident and a Purdue graduate, serves as Grand Universe’s chief science officer.

“He’ll be engaged in this program as well,” McCauley said.

McCauley said a variety of educators, scientists, engineers and astronauts will participate as storytellers at Grand Universe to document the fascinating world of innovation and imagination. He said the unique program developed into a powerful digital platform and places students in challenging, real-world situations where they are connected with and mentored by leading STEM professionals across the country.

“The idea is to encourage young people to pursue those types of careers,” he said. “That’s the bulk of what we do. We’re going to travel the United States, visiting NASA centers. We have five different centers we have worked (on) for years.”

McCauley worked for NASA at Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center, now called Johnson Space Center, on the planning teams for the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions and was a member of the lunar launch team for Apollo 17.

McCauley said those participating will come from inside the research laboratories at Purdue and NASA centers nationwide as well as from the workshops of Indiana high-tech industries.

Personal stories video series 

McCauley said included in the effort is a special series titled “I Am STEM,” which connects a global community with inspirational STEM role models who have pursued careers in science and technology.

The series of short documentary-style interviews, McCauley said, will tell the personal life stories of young scientists and engineers who have pursued careers in science and technology.

“I can’t imagine anything more powerful than hearing about the personal challenges, sacrifices and rewards in the pursuit of a dream,” McCauley said. “I know there will be young people from all walks of life who watch these programs and say, ‘Wow, that’s my story. I can do this, too.’ They can talk about the advice they have for middle school and high school kids who are considering a career in science and technology about the important things to focus on to pursue those careers.”

McCauley said they are developing YouTube and STEM education channels where the videos will be posted.

“We’ll build subscriptions over time, and our relationship with Purdue has just broadened our horizons to pursue those careers,” McCauley said. “The state of Indiana has STEM initiatives. Right now, we’re ranked 25th in the country out of 50 states. Our goal is help Indiana to take a leading role in STEM education.”

The Purdue collaboration is led by Steve Abel, associate provost for engagement, and Lynn Bryan, director of the Center for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of STEM (CATALYST) and Ph.D. professor of science education in the Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction

 Kim Fox, vice president of communications and Mike Newberg, vice president of engagement, will head the Grand Universe Digital Media Team.

“We have six employees now and a variety of volunteers,” McCauley said.

Fundraising delayed

McCauley said a capital campaign to raise money will start this year.

“We postponed in 2020 because of the COVID shutdown as so many people have done as well,” he said. “We’ve had a variety of donors and foundations that have supported us. COVID just put a pause on some of the things that we were doing.”

McCauley wants to make Grand Universe a world-class observatory, planetarium and space center.

For more, visit granduniverse.org.


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