WID-TVC Partners with Hands On Science Center

The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women In Defense has partnered with the Hands On Science Center (HOSC) in Tullahoma, TN, to support museum exhibits and projects specifically designed to highlight and encourage young women.

About the Hands On Science Center

The Hands On Science Center recently received a $10,000 grant via the IF/THEN(r) Initiative. This grant, with support from Lyda Hill Philanthropies, is awarded to U.S. Associate of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) – member museums to support projects designed to address gender equity in their museums. In order to receive the grant funding, the HOSC secured an additional required $1,595 from partner agencies.  This provided a perfect partnership opportunity for WID-TVC, as the grant specifically promotes the recognition of women in science.  Ms. Gayla Suddarth, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Committee Chair, championed the partnership and secured the entire partnership funding.  

As a small 501(c)-3 located in Tullahoma, TN, the Hands On Science Center’s mission is to inspire today’s youth through hands-on exhibits and programming that instill a love for various STEM areas.  The HOSC serves 11+ surrounding counties and impacts nearly 30,000 people annually.

The HOSC is proud of the many STEM educated women working at and supporting the facility. Mrs. Olga Oakwood serves as the Director of Education and as the Air Force STEM Director.  Women also serve on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the staff, and the Development Committee.  Current Development Committee member and past Board Chair, Kim Nelson, is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and also serves on the WID-TVC STEM Committee.  These women are an integral part of guiding the development and implementation of HOSC programs approved through this grant.

To execute grant funding, the HOSC will execute “Exhibit”, “Live Program”, and Virtual Representation” efforts. WID-TVC partnered with the HOSC on all of these elements.


The Exhibit portion consists of a new “Super Girls of Science” gallery.  This room will include near 360-degree comic themed graphics depicting real women throughout history who have been integral to scientific advancement.  Additionally, the exhibit will include a TV screen and audio system, as well as touchable elements and specialized lighting. These elements engage the senses, create a sense of excitement in young girls, and show them that they too can be real world superheroes!

Live Program

The Hands On Science Center hosts field trips and executes a Traveling Wizard program to bring STEM programing to schools, libraries, and other places of learning. Field trip groups visit the HOSC to explore the museum and watch a staff-led science program. The IF/THEN funds will be used to develop a “Women in STEM” program for field trips and traveling programs.  The program will include props and examples of what women in STEM have accomplished. Examples include models of insect metamorphosis discovered by entomologist Maria Merian, models of X and Y chromosomes discovered by Nettie Stevens in 1905, and Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, discovered by paleontologist Sue Hendrickson in South Dakota in 1990.

Virtual Representation

The virtual representation effort includes filming and editing the above program into 25-minute and 45-minute options.  These will be made available for schools, libraries, and other learning places throughout the nation.  In addition, the HOSC will provide a 16-page book, directly mailed to 500+ schools, including a teacher’s manual to accompany the video and information on available resources to augment the learning process.  The HOSC will develop the accompanying curriculum with pre- and post- video worksheets, quizzes, and information for the instructors to utilize. These live and virtual programs offer sustainability, great reach to thousands of young women, and availability for years to come.

The WID-TVC STEM Committee recently dedicated expertise to support grant application efforts for two major STEM grants totaling over $3M:  The National Defense Education Program (NDEP) for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education, Outreach, and Workforce Initiative Programs, and The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Grants.  Both of these grants capitalize on increasing access to STEM activities for people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.  WID-TVC proudly supports the development of STEM programs and resources to serve underprivileged communities throughout the Tennessee Valley. 

Discover more about the Hands On Science Center in Tullahoma, TN here.

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