New Texas Hill Country mill to provide ‘grist’ for future scientists

Educational collaborations will include virtual science project with Texas 4-H

JOHNSON CITY – Have you ever wanted to visit a mill?

In the case of the soon-to-be-opened facility in Johnson City, it’s not a mill that produces steel, grain or cloth. This particular mill was built specifically to produce youth interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, subjects, skills and careers.

The Hill Country Science Mill will open Feb. 14. (Artist rendering courtesy of Hill Country Science Mill)

The Hill Country Science Mill, which will have the goal of getting kids to fall in love with science, will open on Valentine’s Day. (Artist rendering courtesy of Hill Country Science Mill)

The Hill County Science Mill, which will have its grand opening on Feb. 14, is located at 101 S. Ladybird Lane.

“(The mill) is a family destination offering fun, interactive learning environment for all ages through its cutting-edge, technology-based exhibits, games and programs,” said Bonnie Baskin, facility founder.

“It’s appropriate that we’re having our grand opening on Valentine’s Day because we want the kids who visit to fall in love with science,” she said. “Our goal is to expand students’ understanding and appreciation of science in their everyday lives by igniting their curiosity and inspiring them to pursue post-secondary education and possibly a lifelong career in a field related to science, technology, engineering and/or math.”

To help young people fall in love with science, Texas 4-H Youth Development in College Station, part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is collaborating with the science mill to offer information and instruction opportunities for young people to learn about STEM subjects and science-related careers.

“One of the areas in which we are collaborating is toward developing a first-of-its-kind, online virtual 4-H science project,” said Dr. Toby Lepley AgriLife Extension youth development specialist and assistant program director. “We envision this project to be one in which the young person goes through the Hill Country Science Mill, then returns home and can join an area of interest and participate in a science challenge related to his or her interests.”

Texas 4-H Youth Development will collaborate with the  Hill Country Science Mill on developing youth interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM,  subjects, skills and careers. (Photo courtesy of

Texas 4-H Youth Development will collaborate with the Hill Country Science Mill on developing youth interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects, skills and careers. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Tulley/A Smith Gallery)

Through Texas 4-H, young people can participate in projects related to STEM subjects, including biology, computer science, robotics and entomology, Lepley said.

“The STEM goals of the Hill Country Science Mill are highly compatible with those of the Texas 4-H program,” he said. “One of our program goals is to help prepare young people to excel in science, engineering and technology, and to encourage them to help and fill the pipeline of young leaders proficient in science, an area where the U.S. has fallen behind many other countries.”

Lepley added that Texas 4-H is also working with the science mill to help provide educational opportunities for the STEM-focused camps and workshops they will offer in their state-of-the-art facility.

“A virtual science project will be part of the Explorer Zone offerings on the museum’s online learning portal,” said Amber Middlebrook, education and outreach coordinator for the facility. “Students will be able to connect to it through our website or the Texas 4-H website.

The autopsy table is one of the many interactive learning exhibits to capture visitor interest at the Hill Country Science Mill. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Tully/A Smith Gallery)

An interactive anatomy table is one of the many hands-on learning exhibits at the Hill Country Science Mill. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Tully/A Smith Gallery)

“Users would be able to participate in different science challenges and learn more about science-oriented careers, including watching videos of professionals who use STEM-related skills and knowledge in their daily work talking about what they do.”  

Middlebrook said while there are other science museums and learning facilities in Texas and elsewhere, the Hill Country Science Mill is more focused than most in its approach to science education and awareness.

“Though the mill is fun and educational for all ages, our displays, STEM camps, games and other educational opportunities are targeted mostly for middle school and high school students,” she said. “We also place a lot of attention on helping these students develop their scientific interests and in seeking higher education and a career in a field of science that interests them.”

Middlebrook said some of the hands-on learning features of the facility tied to science-related careers include a BioLab, chemistry table, virtual human body, custom model racecar build, computer video game design activity and wind turbine test bed.

For more information on the Hill Country Science Mill, go to: http://sciencemill.org /

For more information on opportunities through Texas 4-H, go to: http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/

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