The message that "science is fun" will be central to the development of the Interactive Science Centre - Esplora - that was officially launched this afternoon.

Malta Council for Science and Technology chairman Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said the centre will include indoor and outdoor spaces designed to celebrate and showcase science to bring it closer to the public.

The €26 million project, €12 million of which will be financed by the EU, will be located at the former Royal Navy hospital within the Villa Bighi Complex in Kalkara. There will be trial period towards the end of 2015 with the centre planned to open in 2016.

Dr Pullicino Orlando said  the new centre will aim to change the mentality that science is boring, scary and too difficult.

The project would also contribute to the economy.

Forty-five people will be employed to run the centre.

Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius, who is responsible for research, recounted how he recently attended an event where children were asked to draw a scientist. They all drew a person in white coat with little hair and said he was a nerd. The project aimed to address this perception.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said this project was much needed if one looked at the way Maltese students performed in maths and sciences. 

He added that work had to start on ensuring the project's feasibility with a year-round turnout of guests.

Project leader Nigel Pace Asciaq and director Karl Azzopardi spoke about the project. The centre will form part of a global network of such centres that total 3,000.

Mr Azzopardi said the project would be built on 22,000 square metres of land and would make use of existing building and surrounding areas for landscaping. It will include an area for a cafe and retail outlets as well as interactive spaces with various themes including human biology, laws of motion and engineering. It will have an area dedicated to small children and an activity centre for shows, projections and conferences. Part of the former hospital would be turned into a planetarium to be the anchor attraction.

Works will include the restoration of the old lift giving access to the site from the Grand Harbour and, therefore, access to cruise liners. In future, Dr Pullicino Orlando added, the idea was to offer a service that picked up children from school in an amphibious vehicles. This would depend on funding availability.


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