On December 16, 1997, U.S. Secretary of Energy Federico F. Peña, and Dr. Ruth Patrick helped break ground for the 30,000 sq. ft. expansion to be added onto the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. After arriving at the Center, both Secretary Peña and Dr. Patrick toured the existing facilities and talked to the children participating in the Center's programs.
In the remarks made by both Secretary Peña and Dr. Patrick, they indicated the importance of cooperative efforts such as the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. In addition to his remarks about the Center, Secretary Peña announced the first ever Department of Energy "Pride in Teaching Award". This award goes to outstanding science and/or mathematics teachers in grades K-12. The first ever award was presented to Carolyn Rischbieter from South Aiken High School.
In addition to Secretary Peña and Dr. Patrick, the following local dignitaries helped make the day a success: Dr. Robert Alexander, Chancellor of USCA; Dr. Linda Eldridge, Superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools; Senator Thomas L. Moore; and Representative Roland Smith. Secretary Peña was introduced in both Spanish and English by Orlando Guerra, a seventh grade student from Guinyard Butler Middle School in Barnwell. Making the day particularly special was the participation in the ceremony by the students from A.D. Hains, Belvedere, and Chukker Creek Elementary Schools.
Actual construction on the expansion should begin sometime this summer with a projected completion date in the of Fall 1999.