On October 1, Golda Och Academy officially celebrated the opening of its brand new, state-of-the-art Dr Lynne B Harrison STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Center with a ribbon cutting attended by Mayor Robert D. Parisi of West Orange, community leaders, Golda Och Academy board members, school faculty and student leaders at the Eric F. Ross Upper School campus.

The 4,000-square-foot center is named in honor of Dr Lynne B Harrison, community philanthropist and school grandparent, who generously committed $1 million toward the facility. During the ceremony, Dr Harrison held the inaugural ribbon along with Adam Shapiro, Head of School at Golda Och Academy; Jeffrey Landau, Board Chair at GOA; and Mayor Parisi. Making the actual cut, however, was a robot designed by members of the high school robotics team (the CodeRunners) that drove down the aisle of guests to cut the ribbon with an actual pair of scissors.

Dr Harrison then helped affix the mezuzah to the doorway of the STEM Center with STEM Coordinator Dr Shira Kelmanovich and leaders of the high school student council. In a fitting tribute to the STEM work already being done at the school, all of the mezuzot in the center were designed and printed by GOA students using a 3D printer.

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“STEM education is an apt acronym,” said Dr Harrison. “It is the stem, the stalk, from which many good things will flower.  The health and the prosperity of our community, our nation and the world depend on the innovations and products that will come from STEM research.  It is a privilege to enable our wonderful, bright students to receive a quality education in well-equipped, well-designed classrooms in their excellent Jewish Day School, Golda Och Academy.”

Following the ceremony, guests toured the three-story Dr Lynne B Harrison STEM Center, viewing the robotics and STEM labs on the first two floors. On display were a RoboCupJunior USA field, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robot, 3D printers, student projects, a soldering station, tools and workstations. The center’s third floor is used as a multipurpose space for students to collaborate with one another as well as attend lectures and demonstrations.

“We now have the room we need to engage and enhance student learning for the robotics and STEM programs,” said Dr. Kelmanovich, who has a PhD in chemical engineering from Stanford University. “The new lab space has already allowed us to expand our offerings to include a high school elective on programming sensors, a middle school STEM club and a 3D-printing elective to be offered in the spring.”

Upper School Principal Christine Stodolski also acknowledged the infinite opportunities the students will have thanks to Dr Harrison’s contribution and vision. “Within this dedicated space, students will have access to materials and technology that will greatly enhance their STEM education, allowing them to discuss and tackle the technological and engineering challenges that face us today.”

Construction on the three-story Dr Lynne B Harrison STEM Center began on June 17, 2015, one day after school ended, and was completed in time for the first day of school on Sept. 3. The new center is an extension of the Dr Lynne B Harrison STEM program, which broadened GOA’s STEM initiatives in 2013 thanks to a $480,000 grant from Dr Harrison and enabled the school to hire a new STEM Coordinator and fund an intensive high school STEM class, high school robotics team, computer science electives, 3D printers and a new Macintosh lab.

“This gift that Dr Harrison has given to our school is transformative.” said Shapiro. “Our students, many of whom have already been focused on STEM, now have an incredible new space that allows them to dream bigger and create things they may have once thought to be out of reach.  We look forward, with great anticipation, to what our school and students will be able to accomplish next.” 

Dr. Harrison is the president of Harrison Research Laboratories, Inc., which she founded in 1981. The company tests products for safety and efficacy for major companies worldwide. Additionally, she is a member of the board of Space Israel and the newly-appointed chair of the USA Board of Space Israel. Dr Harrison has served as vice chair of the Hillel International Board of Directors as well as a member of the Hillel International Board of Governors. In 2009, Hillel named Dr Harrison “Woman of the Year,” honoring her with the Founders’ Award. She is also an officer of the United Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, a member of the Day School Council and board member of Friends of Israel Sci Tech. In addition, Dr Harrison founded and funded the Dr Lynne B Harrison Science Center at the New Jersey “Y” Camps, which offers specialty science education to young Jewish campers. She is a mother of two daughters and the grandmother of a GOA 9th grade student.