HICKORY, N.C. —  Three animatronic dinosaurs were delivered back to the Catawba Science Center on Tuesday after being repaired and restored by students.

The restoration project, which started nearly three years ago, was a collaborative effort between Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) students and the Catawba Science Center

Officials say these dinosaurs had been at CVCC since fall of 2019 after they were originally brought to the main campus as part of a collaborative idea between Catawba Science Center Executive Director Tracy Hall and CVCC instructors Andy Owens and Jim Thomas.

“I called Jim and Andy and told them we had dinosaurs in our warehouse and asked if they wanted to work on them,” said Hall, who previously served as Executive Director for Education Matters on CVCC’s campus. “He and Andy came out to see what the components were, and they aligned with what they were teaching their students.”

Officials say the dinosaurs started out as part of Owens’ capstone class in spring of 2020, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the project quickly evolved into incorporating several classes on CVCC’s campus over the next two years.

After Owens’ sudden passing in 2021, the project was taken over by Jamie Hill, who says more than 60 CVCC students helped to work on the project from several departments across CVCC’s campus, including welding, machining, art, mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology.

“The dinosaur project was a great chance for Engineering Technology students to be about to work on a multidisciplinary piece,” Hill said. “It used everything from 3D and 2D modeling to machining and welding as well our Mechanical and Electrical students heavily. It was an awesome hands-on project for our students to see and work on.”

Jonathan Lovelace, who serves as exhibit coordinator at Catawba Science Center, was one of the many CVCC students who had a hand in the project.

Officials say Lovelace worked on all three dinosaurs before graduating from CVCC this past spring.

“There were a few small things that just needed final touches on them,” Lovelace said. “They look great, and it’s exciting to have them here.”

Ashley Barnett, serving as a Marketing & Communications Specialist at the Catawba Science Center, also had a hand in this project.

Through her Advertising & Graphic Design group at CVCC, officials say Barnett helped to brand the dinosaur exhibit at the Catawba Science Center.

“It’s been really cool to see it come full circle,” Barnett said. “I’ve been in the process of learning how to market and do graphic design to create something special for the Catawba Science Center and now working for them and implementing what I’ve created. It’s neat to see how integrated we are — especially in Hickory. I don’t know of any other place that I could go to school immediately, go back out and get a job at the Science Center.”

Officials say all three dinosaurs will be a part of a large dinosaur exhibit at the Catawba Science Center that is tentatively scheduled to open late summer or early fall.

This exhibit will include nine additional dinosaurs recently ordered by the Center.

“I am excited to have developed a partnership with CVCC instructors to create an innovative real world project for students in varied programs including engineering, mechatronics, visual arts, and advertising and graphic design,” said Tracy Hall, Catawba Science Center Executive Director. “Bringing the Catawba Science Center’s 1980’s animatronic dinosaurs back to our community is exciting and I learned meaningful to many of the students as they remember visiting CSC and seeing the dinosaurs when they were children. We are grateful for the dedication and expertise of the instructors and students, and look forward to opening the exhibit later this summer.”




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