Binghamton, NY, 12 April 2016 | 07:00 AM America/Chicago Things are Looking Up A new science park is reenergizing a New York community Sparking children’s imaginations. Inspiring students to seek Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. Restoring a struggling economy. Sounds like some lofty goals. But the Vestal and Binghamton communities in the Southern Tier of New York state are more than up for the challenge. The Kopernik Observatory & Science Center, one of the top equipped public observatories in the Northeast, opened its doors in 1974. Today, there are plans to expand the center, creating a science park with an outdoor learning facility, a playground and a (STEM) educational experience. Kopernik Observatory Outside the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center Currently, Kopernik serves 10,000 people annually. The goal is to double the visitors through expanded programming and the new science park.Sounds like a great plan. But the community needed more funding. Fortunately, the Junior League of Binghamton heard about the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant program through a local State Farm agent, Dean Hurley. State Farm Neighborhood Assist This program allows communities to submit a community cause for the potential of receiving a grant towards the initial proposal. Not only did they win one of the 40 grants, but the crowdsourcing program helped kick off the half-million dollar science park project campaign. It reenergized the community about the need and importance of STEM programs. “We will have playground equipment unlike any other playground in the area. It will be a destination for people of the Southern Tier and tourists,” said Rachel Consolazio, a member of the Junior League of Binghamton.“There’s opportunities to have a merry-go-round that has a generator built into it, so as the kids are running around, they’re creating electricity and running devices. Or, they might learn about friction through a slide,” said Drew Deskur, Director of the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center.Soon the new, expanded (and free!) park will be open. Those goals aren’t so lofty anymore.