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Science Center Advances FirstHand STEM Education Program with Support from CHOP, PECO and the Exelon Foundation

PHILADELPHIA--(January 4, 2019) – The University City Science Center announced today that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), along with PECO and the Exelon Foundation, have contributed funds to support the Center’s nationally recognized FirstHand program, designed to engage middle and high school students in STEM subjects. The gifts are being recognized as part of the Science Center’s $3 million Ignite Innovation campaign.

Representatives from CHOP and PECO celebrated the official ribbon cutting of the FirstHand Lab on January 4 with students from Paul Robeson High School who are participating in FirstHand’s Project Inquiry program.

Leveraging the knowledge and resources of the Science Center, FirstHand serves youth at under-resourced middle schools and high schools in Philadelphia. Year-round programs are offered in partnership with local schools and community organizations and are designed to provide skills-based career exposure.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s gift represents its strong commitment to the West Philadelphia community, ensuring students have early exposure to STEM careers and design-thinking that may someday lead to careers at CHOP or other healthcare and research institutions. This gift complements CHOP’s recently announced “Healthier Together” initiative that, among other things, aspires to create job opportunities that can help better address the health needs of children and their families living in neighborhoods surrounding CHOP.

PECO and the Exelon Foundation recognize the need to equip the workforce of tomorrow with the soft and hard skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. FirstHand’s STEM programming, supplemented with mentoring by scientists and entrepreneurs within the Science Center’s network, provides a platform for PECO’s commitment to social responsibility.

The CHOP, PECO and Exelon Foundation gifts come at a transformational time for the program – with its recent relocation to a new dedicated lab and classroom facility at 3675 Market Street, where the Science Center is headquartered, FirstHand is poised to connect more students in the surrounding neighborhoods to the thriving entrepreneurial and innovation system in Greater Philadelphia.

“CHOP values our partnership with the Science Center, PECO and local schools, which enables us to work together and build our future workforce,” said Peter Grollman, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “With heavy demands for patient care in our hospital – and breakthroughs generated in our labs – we want to inspire future generations to start early on the path of pursuing healthcare careers. Our work with the FirstHand program is one way we can prepare for our own growth right here in the community.”

“As PECO is committed to supporting academic enrichment, with a specific focus on STEM education, we are proud to partner with the Exelon Foundation and CHOP in supporting the Science Center’s advancement of the FirstHand program,” said PECO President and CEO, Mike Innocenzo. “Programs like FirstHand, support our efforts to serve as a leader in preparing a pipeline for our future workforce as new energy jobs emerge. By introducing the next generation of students to STEM related fields we can ignite a passion that pushes them to become the drivers of innovation within our industry.”

“Through the generous support from CHOP, PECO and the Exelon Foundation, we’re making a critical down payment on our city’s future.”

Steve Zarrilli, President & CEO, University City Science Center

“CHOP, PECO and the Exelon Foundation’s support for the next generation of Philadelphia’s innovators speaks to the urgency felt across all sectors in ensuring that our city and region’s talent pipeline is full – and that all students have access to resources to fuel their curiosity and inspire their dreams,” says Science Center President & CEO, Steve Zarrilli. “Through the generous support from CHOP, PECO and the Exelon Foundation, we’re making a critical down payment on our city’s future.”

FirstHand’s programs take place in a new state-of-the-art learning space at 3675 Market Street. The 5,000 square foot space features two wet labs equipped with microscopes, a fume hood, lab freezer, convection oven, PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machines, and equipment for DNA analysis. The lab also features a makerspace pairing traditional hand and power tools with cutting edge prototyping tools such as laser cutters and Computer Numeric Control robotic carving machines, along with a digital studio equipped with laptops, design software and a large format vinyl cutter.

Funds raised through Ignite Innovation will allow the Science Center to continue inspiring ideas, innovators and early-stage companies through programming that helps to scale and impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem and facilitate the commercialization of promising new technologies. And FirstHand will be able to expand its nationally-recognized programming to more students at more schools in Philadelphia.

About the Science Center

Located in the heart of uCity Square, the Science Center is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that catalyzes and connects innovation to entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. For 50+ years, the Science Center has supported startups, research, and economic development in the life sciences, healthcare, physical sciences, and emerging technology sectors. As a result, graduate firms and current residents of the Science Center’s incubator support one out of every 100 jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region and drive $13 billion in economic activity in the region annually. By providing resources and programming for any stage of a business’s lifecycle, the Science Center helps scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators take their concepts from idea to IPO – and beyond. For more information about the Science Center, go to

About FirstHand

Equal parts Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, FirstHand provides Philadelphia’s curious minds access to the knowledge and resources of the Science Center, the nation’s oldest and largest urban research park. FirstHand programming serves local youth from under-resourced schools and the teachers and professionals from their communities. FirstHand aims to spark an interest in the STEAM disciplines for students to explore and cultivate, now and throughout their lives. To learn more:

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing