New Coca-Cola Space Science Center exhibit to help young … – Columbus State University News

November 9, 2023

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center launched a new exhibit to inspire aspiring young scientists to study aerospace flight
and exploration principles. The exhibit, developed fully in-house by the center’s
educational team, was made possible through support from Pratt & Whitney, a global leader in propulsion system design and engineering.

The interactive exhibit, “Guzzle Vortex,” is designed to spark conversations with
young visitors about the aerospace principles of flight, planets around other stars,
and life in the universe. Its maze of suction-powered tubes gives kids the chance
to chart the pathways their colorful “Noulie delights” squares of fabric — the name
a take on Bernoulli’s principle — will take before they are jettisoned at the end
of their flight.

“Our newest exhibit — the ‘Guzzle Vortex’ — is designed especially for our preschool-
and elementary-aged visitors to have a good time with their families while learning
about the principles of science,” said the center’s director, Dr. Shawn Cruzen.

Exhibit signage provides conversation starter prompts for the center’s education staff,
K-12 teachers and families. Topics range from aerodynamic principles and interstellar
travel to exoplanets and the possibility of life on other planets.

Annually, nearly 40,000 visitors from Columbus and around the world benefit from the
Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s mission to inspire and educate the next generation
of scientists, engineers, and science educators and communicators. Most of those visitors
are from elementary and middle schools — including the 17,000-plus Columbus-area students
who study at one of the Muscogee County School District’s 44 elementary and middle schools.


As schoolchildren learn about the stars, Columbus State students pursuing degrees
in the sciences and science education are deepening their aerospace knowledge. In
that regard, the center is a vital resource for CSU’s Department of Earth & Space Sciences — housing its astronomy courses and supporting student and faculty research. In partnership
with the Department of Teacher Education, Leadership & Counseling, the center provides future science educators with practicum experiences as they
prepare to teach the next generation of space explorers.

Group of people cutting a grand-opening ribbon with a large pair of scissors

The “Guzzle Vortex” exhibit is an extension of Pratt & Whitney’s ongoing and long-time
partnership with the Coca-Cola Space Science Center. The company’s support of this
and other university initiatives focuses on the long-term goal of developing a highly
trained, technically skilled and competitive workforce.

“As we pursue our goals as a university, we don’t do that by ourselves. We do it with
our community partners, and we have no better partner than Pratt & Whitney,” said
Dr. Pat McHenry, interim provost and executive vice president. “They’ve been with
us close to three decades — making their expertise available to us as we have grown
and expanded our STEM programs in computer science, Earth and space science, and robotics

Cruzen noted that the company’s influence and ongoing support can be seen throughout
the center — from the ceiling where inflated models of planets float overhead to the
center’s central galleries where its extensive Space Shuttle collection is on display.

“It’s hard to look around the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and not see Pratt & Whitney’s
hand at work,” he said. “They model what an education-focused, corporate-university
partnership looks like, and we are grateful for how they invest in our mission of
broadening an appreciation of science and technology.”

That partnership has ranged from single exhibition projects like the “Guzzle Vortex”
to annually supporting the center’s Summer Academy for students ages 9 to 18. It also
includes volunteer service by employees of its Columbus Engine Center throughout the
year as they share their expertise with center visitors and staff.

Like the center, Pratt & Whitney is invested in programs that develop the next generation
of scientists and foster tourism and economic development in the region. With the
Columbus Engine Center’s recent $206 million expansion and the 400-plus new jobs that expansion will create, GTF Operations Director Kelley
Carillon of Pratt & Whitney’s Columbus Engine Center noted the benefits of its ongoing
collaboration with Columbus State.

“We partner so strongly with [the Coca-Cola Space Science Center because] we need
a very talented, technical workforce,” Carillon explained. “[That means] intervening
very early in elementary school and getting these kids interested in these careers
to create our pipeline. The [Coca-Cola Space Science Center] does a really good job
of reaching out to a broad, diverse group of students.”

Kids catching colorful cloth items being ejected from the Guzzle Vortex exhibitCruzen emphasized that, through its Muscogee County School District partnership and
the other groups that visit the center, around 40% of its school-aged visitors fall
into minority groups historically underrepresented in STEM careers. Many of these
students lack home access to technology for educational purposes — making the center’s
programs and exhibits like the “Guzzle Vortex” that increase these students’ comfort
levels with scientific themes crucial to developing future technically minded professionals.

The center didn’t go far to develop “Guzzle Vortex.” Instead of purchasing a frequently
expensive off-the-shelf exhibit, the center’s newest addition was conceptualized and
designed in-house — created by assistant planetarium director Lance Tankersley and
system administrator Chris Johnson. Tankersley relied on his museum studies degree
from Johns Hopkins University to design an engaging and captivating exhibit, while
Johnson’s graphic design and electronics know-how helped bring the exhibit to life.

In addition to exhibitions like the “Guzzle Vortex,” the center’s 7,500 square feet
of gallery space is populated with more than 300 NASA artifacts documenting the Gemini,
Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Its Space Shuttle collection is the most extensive
of its kind in Georgia. It includes the only Space Shuttle Main Engine Nozzle found
outside a NASA or Smithsonian Institute museum — this one having flown to space on
nine NASA missions. The gallery also includes four flight simulators and numerous
interactive displays — both of which Cruzen pointed out are quite popular with school-aged


The Coca-Cola Space Science Center has been inspiring visitors of all ages to look
to the stars since opening in 1996. As Georgia’s only science center and museum facility
dedicated to providing experiences for students and public visitors in astronomy and
space science, its galleries, aerospace artifacts and science education programs have
fostered an appreciation for science and technology, as well as advanced scientific
literacy throughout our local and academic communities.

Space Shuttle display inside the Coca-Cola Space Science CenterOutside its galleries, cornerstones of Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s programming
include its Omnisphere Theatre planetarium and its Westrock Observatory. The planetarium
includes a full-dome digital projection system that frequently features documentaries
and constellation-mapping events. The WestRock Observatory is one of Georgia’s premier
public observatories and home to a research-grade telescope. Complementing it and
the center’s stargazing programs is a fleet of over 20 portable telescopes, a portable
planetarium system, a van for providing mobile programs, and a remotely controllable
solar observatory.

An outreach program of the university’s College of Education & Health Professions, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center serves as a training site for Columbus State
students pursuing degrees that lead to careers in the sciences and science education.
CSU alumni who have served in the center’s educational program are now employed at
NASA, Teledyne, The Planetary Sciences Institute, Axiom Space and Blue Origin — just
to name a few.

For more information about Coca-Cola Space Science Center, visit

Media contacts:
Michael Tullier, APR, executive director of strategic communication + marketing, Columbus
State University, 706.507.8729,
Wanja Ngugi, assistant director, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, 706.649.1486, 

Related news coverage:
CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center unveils Guzzle Vortex gallery exhibit (Nov. 8, 2023, WRBL-TV)

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