Museum honors Melissa Rice with inaugural SPARK Award at fundraising gala

SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention presented Western Washington University assistant professor Melissa Rice its first SPARK Award earlier this year. The award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to science education and advocacy, was presented at IGNITE!, the Museum’s inaugural fundraising gala.

“We selected Dr. Rice for this award because she is someone who ignites curiosity in science not only in kids, but in people of all ages and backgrounds, someone who has gained distinction as a science advocate through active engagement with the public,” said John Jenkins, SPARK’s president and CEO.

Rice holds joint appointments in the geology and physics and astronomy departments at Western. Her research interests include planetary geology and the use of robotic devices for space exploration. Since 2008, she has been a member of both the Curiosity and Opportunity Mars exploration research teams with NASA.

In 2016, she was named a participating scientist on the Mars Curiosity Rover Team. Using vehicles equipped with remote-sensing instruments, she and co-workers are learning exciting details about the sediment, stratigraphy and mineralogy of the planet Mars. In addition to collaborating with scientists at NASA laboratories, Rice actively involves WWU students in her research at the frontiers of planetary science.

With nearly 100 attendees, IGNITE! raised more than $70,000 to help fund expanded exhibits and educational programming at SPARK Museum.

“On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank the outstanding volunteers who helped put on our first gala and the many donors who made it a financial success,” said Wendy Eickmeyer, IGNITE! chair and SPARK Museum board member. “We’re incredibly appreciative of the support our community shows for SPARK Museum and its ongoing science experiences for families and students from across the Pacific Northwest.”

Funds raised by the gala will enable the Museum to continue expanding its education program with more availability for school field trips and upgraded hands-on, educational experiences throughout the Museum. In addition, SPARK has developed a new permanent exhibit called “The War of the Currents: The Race to Determine the Technology That Would Power the World.” That exhibit opens May 19.

SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is an exciting and educational experience for all ages. Exhibits span four centuries of scientific achievement in a world-class collection celebrating the inventions and innovations that make our modern world possible. SPARK Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Located at 1312 Bay St. in Downtown Bellingham, its regular hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.