Volkswagen Chattanooga Donates $1 Million To Creative Discovery Museum Capital Campaign

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Volkswagen Chattanooga has pledged $1 million to become the presenting sponsor for the Creative Discovery Museum’s new STEMZone exhibit. VW Chattanooga’s investment in the Ignite Discovery capital campaign will enable the Museum to create a new exhibit gallery dedicated to STEM (Science Technology, Energy and Math) education.   

“Creative Discovery Museum is a staple in our community and has been committed to educating and inspiring children for the last 25 years,” said Tom du Plessis, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “We are proud to be investing in their future and looking forward to collaborating on the creation of the STEMzone.”  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, careers in the STEM field have grown 14 percent in the last decade. In order to develop the skills needed to solve complex, real-world problems and to meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce, all children must have access to quality, STEM education experiences. 

The STEMzone will feature components that build competencies and skills required of a future-ready workforce. Visitors will design, build and test their own cars, rockets and airplanes. One section of the exhibit will be dedicated to exploring technology and robotics. The current Make It exhibit, outfitted with simple tools from hammers and saws to sewing machines, will be renovated and relocated to the STEMzone with new equipment and a 3D printer. There will also be an area dedicated to renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and thermal. 

“We are grateful for the significant support from Volkswagen Chattanooga,” said Henry Schulson, executive director. “What could be better than having a global leader in technology and innovation as a partner for this exhibit. Their investment will allow us to develop a STEM exhibit full of hands-on, interactive experiences that are pertinent to the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving and reasoning skills.” 

CDM officially re-ignited its $10 million capital campaign on Sept. 15 after temporarily suspending efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Ignite Discovery: Creating the New CDM’ will fund comprehensive renovations of CDM’s 43,000-square-foot facility, providing opportunities for children and families to explore, innovate, create and play for generations to come. The initiative is centered on three goals: to ensure CDM remains a leader in experiential learning, a gathering place for all children and a gateway to a vibrant downtown Chattanooga. To date, nearly $7.1 million has been raised from a broad base including corporations, foundations and community leaders. 

“Recent gifts and the steadfast support of our community throughout have been tremendous and very heartening. This shows that even in the face of uncertainty, we understand how critical an institution like Creative Discovery Museum is to the future of our city,” said Patrick Stowe, CDM’s board chair. 

Ignite Discovery addresses community challenges that were identified in a 2018 Feasibility Study. These challenges include strengthening early childhood education, providing new opportunities for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning, increasing access for all children regardless of background and helping revitalize the Riverfront District. In addition to facility renovations, this campaign addresses each of the needs by updating and installing new exhibits, expanding outreach programs and creating a new, vibrant urban space on the CDM Plaza. 

Construction is set to begin August 2021 and be completed by May 2022, just in time to celebrate the Museums 27th birthday. ‘Ignite Discovery: Creating the New CDM’ is chaired by Susu and Paul Brock, and Leah and Jay Hill.  

Since opening its doors in 1995, CDM has welcomed more than five million visitors. It has been nationally-ranked by Trekaroo and Child magazines. CDM received the CICL Pinnacle Award for its work in biofuels distance learning lessons. Locally, CDM was named Best Museum in the Times Free Press’s Best of the Best competition and is a two-time Nonprofit of the Year finalist. In addition, CDM was the first organization in Tennessee to participate in Museums for All, a national initiative that encourages cultural organizations to provide significantly reduced admissions to families that receive food assistance. 

For more information about ‘Ignite Discovery: Creating the New CDM,’ visit or contact Katie Hanners, CDM’s director of advancement, at (423) 648-6043. 

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