November 1, 2009 in City

Science learning center in the works

Alisonb@Spokesman.Com, (208) 765-7132
Kathy Plonka photo On Monday, Lorna Finman, president and founder of North Idaho Discovery Association, and Brian Induni, NIDA’s executive director of business and marketing, walk on the property in Rathdrum that will be the site of a 20,000-square-foot science, technology and research center.
(Full-size photo)

A North Idaho nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting science and technology education plans to build a 20,000-square-foot science center in Rathdrum.

The North Idaho Discovery Association, or NIDA, plans to build the Science, Technology and Research (STAR) facility on land owned by Paul and Lorna Finman, who started the nonprofit. The Finmans own more than 620 acres in Rathdrum, off state Highway 41.

NIDA sponsors more than 120 teams that compete in the international FIRST Robotics Competition and offers summer robotics camps for children in grades 4 through 11. They offer scholarships and grants to promote science and technology education, as well as training teachers and coaches to lead robotics courses and teams.

Lorna Finman said the STAR facility will complement efforts NIDA is making to enhance science and technology education in the region. Space in the center will be used for interactive exhibits, many of them designed by students, laboratories for scientists, and classrooms. It will be open to the public and offer opportunities to explore robotics, molecular biology, alternative energy and agricultural technology, Finman said.

The building will be “off the grid” and will use renewable energy systems, said Brian Induni, NIDA’s executive director of business and marketing. He said $2.5 million in private and corporate donations is in place to build the science center. Much of that came from the Finmans, including the land, Lorna Finman said. She hopes to begin construction in the spring and complete it by the following spring.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “The only thing that could slow us down is land-use issues.”

NIDA has discussed the project with city and county officials but has not submitted building permits yet, Finman and Induni said. Paul Matthews Architects of Rathdrum was hired to design the facility.

NIDA’s long-term vision for the land is to add onto the center and also add a science and technology think tank, an incubator for businesses and, one day, a small private college.

The Finmans own LCF Enterprises, a Post Falls company that makes amplifiers used by the military as jamming devices. Paul Finman graduated from Kellogg High School before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, where he met his wife. Both hold doctoral degrees – he in electrical engineering, she in physics.

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