Hack The House

An engineering challenge for youth, ages 14-21.

Programming

Dive into the extravaganza! Unearth the magic behind each experiment, entertainer, exhibit, and eccentric escapade.

Map

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Schedule

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New TELUS Spark CEO eager to continue opening ‘doors to the world of science’

Jul 27, 2023
July 26, 2023 | Calgary Herald
by David Parker

Roderick Tate joined Telus Spark Science Centre two and a half years ago as chief experience officer, and for the past seven months served as acting CEO. Earlier this month, he was appointed president and CEO of the organization, and he is eager to use his experience and passion to build community and bring people together.

Though the Calgarian has an interest in the sciences, his first career was in music, touring Canada and the U.S. playing trombone in rhythm and blues bands with the likes of B.B. King.

After 10 years he decided to settle down back home, and worked with the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. As entertainment director, he says he was responsible for organizing “everything with two legs” during Stampede, from the midway to the Grandstand Show.

Telus Spark is also about building experiences while appealing to broad cultural relationships. Tate’s new role values art and creativity in sharing science with audiences, using culture and emotion to kick-start conversation. The position is backed by an impressive 200,000-square-foot building and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable permanent staff of 70, plus another 100 seasonal workers and more part-timers.

The building was opened in 2011 as a final metamorphic change from the original 1967 Calgary Centennial Planetarium on 11th Street S.W. By 1987, it had become the Calgary Science Centre, and thanks to a $9-million donation added the name of Telus when it reopened on St. George’s Drive N.E., north of the Calgary Zoo.

The new facility, a purpose-built science centre, “opened doors to the world of science,” boasting the largest dome theatre in Western Canada.

Since that time Telus Spark has grown in stature through the way it presents science, reimagining how science connects — while investing in curiosity and adding fun to learning.

Dedicated to environmental sustainability, the LEED Gold certified structure’s Renfrew Solar Carport boasts 2,292 high efficiency solar panels that produce 1.2 million kWh of electricity annually.

Much of the attention has been directed to getting kids excited about science, partnering with school systems to enhance learning for K to 12. A new feature is its Brainasium Outdoor Park that reinforces the importance of learning by playing; physically and mentally helping to overcome limitations.

But adults are also a prime target — if adults like it, kids will, too.

One of the most popular 18-plus programs is Spark After Dark, a twice-monthly experience that regularly sells out to around 2,000 adults each evening. Opening Aug. 11 is So Robot, featuring all things robot, engineering, coding and technology, while adding food and music to a night of learning.

Tate is also busy spreading the word about the centre’s current capital campaign. Set at $45 million, the first phase of $6 million is already raised and has allowed the reimagining of one of its four galleries with the Astronaut Ice Cream Café and a permanent digital immersion gallery, one of the first in North America.

The next phase will enhance the other three galleries and provide a new entranceway to the building that will allow for an expected huge increase in visitors.

More than 400,000 people pass through the gates each year and Tate and his active board have set their sights on doubling that figure in the next five years. The aspiration is to have Telus Spark ranked as one of the top-10 most visited unique science centres in the world.

Tate has accepted a challenging job that has been added to with the excitement of planning for the 10th anniversary of Beakerhead — now part of the Telus Spark family — that is expected to draw 50,000 people to its several Calgary sites around the city from Sept. 14 to 17.