Spotlight on Informal Science

 Table of Contents  

Message from
the President
Dr. Franklin Retires
Andi Webb PAEMST
Science Leadership
Fellows Update
Gatling Award
Nominations Needed
Informal Science Spotlight
Mountains to the Sea

Catawba Science Center

Looking for fun and educational things to do in Hickory and Western North Carolina? Then be sure to check out the Catawba Science Center. This 35,000 sq. ft science and technology children’s museum offers hands-on exhibits, salt and freshwater aquarium galleries, and a state-of-the-art digital planetarium theater. Catawba Science Center offers interactive and educational school field trips as well as engaging summer camps for youth in grades PreK-9. Here’s a quick tour of some of the hidden gems in this delightful science center.

Millholland Planetarium

This 65 seat planetarium theater features a giant-screen, 30 ft dome with surround sound and a brand new digital projector that gives the planetarium the ability to connect via livestream with NASA and over 400 partners across the globe. Be sure to check out current shows and times.


Unique among aquariums in Western, NC, Catawba Science Center offers fresh and saltwater aquarium galleries for visitors to explore. Named one of the 150 best aquariums to visit in America, the saltwater gallery features a variety of saltwater fish including porcupine puffer fish, garden eels, seahorses and an 8,000 gallon shark and stingray habitat. There’s even a really cool “Wall of Life” with a LIVE Coral Reef filled with reef dwelling animals.

Permanent Exhibits

Gross Labs - In this interactive exhibit, visitors play the role of scientists who are applying for jobs at Gross Labs, choosing from such jobs as “Poop Analyzer” and “Snot Surveyor.”

Nano - Imagine and discover a world you can’t see! In this exhibit, visitors can explore progressively smaller magnetic materials, build a giant model of a carbon nanotube, and spin disks containing small and large plastic beads, comparing the relative effects of static electricity and gravity on different size beads.

Tornado Simulator - See what happens when winds reach 78 mph!

Energy Avenue - Create and launch rockets, race a friend on pulley playground, take a spin in Spin Circle, power a TV and electric fan, and more.

Catawba Science Center also hosts an outdoor science courtyard, an aquaponics greenhouse and raised bed gardens, and a naturalist center. 

Coming in May is the Fluttery Butterfly Habitat. There is so much to do and explore in this hidden gem of a science center. Book a class, schedule a tour or visit with your family!