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FirstHand Kicks Off Fall Program Schedule with Four City Schools

With a new name, a dedicated lab and an expanded list of participating schools in Philadelphia, the University City Science Center’s FirstHand program has kicked off its fall schedule. 7th and 8th graders from Alain Locke Elementary School, Belmont Academy Charter School, the City School and KiPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School will participate in weekly Polymer Play and AmpItUp sessions, culminating with a series of project fairs in December. Additional schools are scheduled to begin participating later this fall.

Polymer Play puts an emphasis on materials science through project-based learning. Using technology such as laser cutters, power tools and heat press, students apply science and math to design real projects. In Polymer Play, students experiment using bio-plastic and recycle plastics into new materials. With guidance from scientists, designers and entrepreneurs, students team up to design and build a final group project that is exhibited to the community.

AmpItUp builds off of the knowledge and skills developed during Polymer Play, as students explore the inner workings of the batteries and circuits that power our daily activities. The middle school students step into the world of electrochemistry and have a chance to design different types of batteries and experiment with electrical circuits. Lab visits to Science Center-based companies, combined with instruction in soldering irons, multimeters, laser cutters, and hand tools, provide inspiration for the students’ team projects.

The FirstHand programs take place in the newly enhanced FirstHand Lab, which is located among the early-stage emerging technology companies working out of the Science Center’s Port business incubator. The FirstHand Lab gives students access to a professional space and tools such as scales, micropipettes, glassware, electronic sensors, along with hands-on experiences that in many cases are not available in the classroom.

Serving Philadelphia youth from under-resourced schools and the teachers, professionals and families from their communities, FirstHand aims to spark an interest in the STEAM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math that students can explore and cultivate throughout their lives. By giving students the opportunity to ask more questions, create new solutions and explore science and technology, FirstHand is opening the doors for the minds of tomorrow.

FirstHand is supported by generous donations from Cognizant Making the Future, The Dow Chemical Company’s Dow Gives Program, The Lenfest Foundation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, OHAUS, Rainin Instruments LLC, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Startup PHL and Wexford Science + Technology, A BioMed Realty Company.

About the Science Center
The University City Science Center is a dynamic hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology development in the Greater Philadelphia region. Since it was founded in 1963, graduate organizations and current residents of the University City Science Center’s Port business incubators have created more than 15,000 jobs that remain in the Greater Philadelphia region today and contribute more than $9 billion to the regional economy annually. The Science Center has a history as the oldest and largest urban research park in the U.S. Today, after 50+ years of operations, we are in the midst of a dramatic change that will further impact Greater Philadelphia’s role in the innovation ecosystem, joining forces with Wexford Science + Technology, a BioMed Realty company, to expand our footprint. In September 2015, we announced a new brand for our campus: uCity Square - a true mixed-use community comprised of office and lab space for companies of all sizes, as well as residential and retail locations. Together with Wexford, we’re creating a community of ingenuity where bright minds will flourish and thrive. Visit to learn more.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch Headshot 2024

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing