West Virginia University breaks ground on S.T.E.M. facility

Photo Provided Officials do the ceremonial ground breaking for the new Annette S. Boggs Educational Center at WVU Jackson’s Mill. From left, Brent Clark, 4-H program director; Howard Boggs, Annette’s husband; Truman Wolfe, director, WVU Jackson’s Mill; Steven Bonanno, dean and director, WVU Extension Service; Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, assistant professor and STEM specialist; Phyllis Hinterer; B.J. Davisson, executive vice president and chief development officer, WVU Foundation; and Mark Gavin, WVU associate provost for budget, facilities and strategic initiatives.

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University Extension Service has broken ground on the new Annette S. Boggs Educational Center, a 6,000-square-foot facility at WVU Jackson’s Mill, which will be home to year-round programming and hands-on activities that focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

The center was made possible through a gift by Howard E. Boggs, the husband of the late Annette S. Boggs who retired from WVU Extension Service where she served as a home economist 4-H specialist, leadership development specialist and program coordinator in Keyser. She was a 4-H All Star and a member of the NAREF Potomac Highlands Chapter 2288.

Boggs’ gift is part of WVU Extension Service’s Centennial Campaign, a $2.8 million fundraising initiative to preserve the treasured history of WVU Jackson’s Mill while providing critical enhancements to ensure it continues to meet the camping, recreation and educational needs for future visitors. Three yurts and a bathhouse are currently under construction and future plans also include river access points; a high ropes course and zipline; and skeet, trap and rifle ranges to enhance the opportunities for outdoor recreation.

“My wife was very fond of Jackson’s Mill – it was like her second home. She spent many days and nights teaching classes, attending meetings and working on projects for the betterment of 4-H,” said Boggs. “She would have been very proud to see this building being built here at Jackson’s Mill.”

The skills to be taught at the center will serve students in all disciplines.

“We are seeing a shift in how businesses operate – across all industries. The need for highly skilled and experienced workers with these skillsets is in high demand. This new facility will provide us with a unique opportunity to host S.T.E.M. events and activities that pique the interest interests of young people throughout West Virginia,” said WVU Extension Service Dean and Director Steven Bonanno. “Problem-solving, innovation and creativity are so important in this fast-paced world. We are grateful to Mr. Boggs for helping us create a place for our young people to hone these skills.”

The Boggs Educational Center will feature two classrooms, a technology room and will feature 3-D printers, laser cutters and other specialty equipment to provide hands-on design-based learning activities, innovative makerspace projects, and other unique opportunities for youths and educators from all 55 counties. The building was designed by VanNostrand Architects and will be located on the site of the former Flameway Hall, which was destroyed during the 2012 derecho.

“WVU Jackson’s Mill provides a central location and is an ideal place to create West Virginia’s first dedicated S.T.E.M. and makerspace that can be open to the public, including students and adults,” said Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, assistant professor and S.T.E.M. specialist. “We are excited to have a facility where we can provide year-round programming, and one that allows us to extend our reach and enhance learning outcomes.”

Investment in S.T.E.M. education has been identified as a goal for the WV Forward initiative to advance the state’s future. WV Forward is a statewide collaboration led by West Virginia University, the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University to help grow the economy by adding jobs, investing in education, and improving health and wellness to create the most prosperous West Virginia possible.

S.T.E.M. education has become an integral part of 4-H programming throughout the country, providing opportunities for youths to develop skills and knowledge in career exploration while experiencing a variety of learning methods. WVU Extension Service 4-H is a national leader in S.T.E.M. education. Each year, the organization hosts camps, in- and after-school S.T.E.M. outreach, hands-on activities and education. Last year, WVU Extension Service was tapped to lead the 4-H National Youth Science Day challenge, Code Your World, which was delivered to more than 7,000 students in West Virginia and more than 200,000 nationwide.