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STANDING UP FOR SCIENCE

The Fleet Science Center’s CEO takes STEM learning to the community

by Brianne Brown

Holding a sign that read, “Stand Up for Science,” Dr. Steve Snyder joined many of his colleagues from the Fleet Science Center as they made their way down Harbor Drive at the 2018 March for Science San Diego on April 14. Not only does Snyder talk the talk and encourage those around him to stand up for science, but his work with the 45-year-old museum in Balboa Park proves that he walks the walk, too—and not just when he’s marching.

Snyder, the President & CEO of the Fleet Science Center, is a passionate advocate for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and works diligently to not only develop educational programming within the walls of the museum but also to bring science out to the community. After taking the science center’s helm in 2013, he expanded the mission of the institution, broadening the reach of programs such as the Fleet Inquiry Institute—which teaches the inquiry method of science learning to more than 1,000 San Diego-area educators per year—and launched 52 Weeks of Science, a program that leverages community resources to bring science and technology events to San Diegans of all ages in the communities in which they live, work and play.

But inside the walls of the Fleet, too, Snyder is making a difference. In June, the museum’s annual fundraising gala—Busting the Myths of Wine—raised more than $205,000 that will directly benefit the Fleet and its mission to connect all San Diegans to the power of science. “By expanding who we reach and where we reach them, we are moving towards our goal of realizing a San Diego where everyone is connected to the power of science,” Snyder says.

While many San Diegans likely visited the Fleet on a field trip as students, Snyder balks at the thought that the Fleet is old and venerable. “We are always evolving and bringing in new and exciting programs and exhibitions. Every time you visit the Fleet, you experience something new,” he says. Indeed, the Fleet’s latest offering, MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition, takes up almost half of the second floor and is an interactive exhibition that allows visitors to debunk commonly held beliefs 

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they like do on the popular television show. The exhibition also features a live show that encourages audience members to participate using the scientific method. During the staff preview, Snyder bravely volunteered to participate in the live demonstration where his reflexes and reactions to both light and sound were tested. “If you’ve never tried to dodge a paintball, you haven’t truly lived,” he laughs.

Whether he’s marching for science or dodging paintballs, Snyder is making a difference in the community. San Diego is home to many different industries that specialize in science and technology, so grooming the next generation of scientists is incredibly important to Snyder. And under his guidance, the Fleet Science Center is doing just that.