Okay, a little history first. The Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana was established as result of the NASA Challenger disaster in 1986. The Center came to life to honor the flight crew, which included a grade school teacher. Through flight simulation, ground control and space station scenarios, participants learn about engineering, science and math in a whole new way outside of the classroom. The Center provides a hands-on teaching experience for grade school children (K-12). It also offers mission scenarios to students grades 5-8 to build skills in teamwork, problem solving, communication and critical thinking. It also offers professional development ‘flights’ to area businesses and assists them to benefit from the use teams in the workplace. There are many facilities, such as this, across the USA and they all operate the same, but with a slightly different marketing look. The Center focuses on bringing the excitement of simulation into the classroom.
Now to the design part. The logo image has deep symbolism throughout for this particular facility. There are many Challenger Learning Centers across the United States and all operate the same way. It’s their logo that is unique. Sixty-eight found out a couple of things about the 1986 disaster and other shuttle missions. Every time a shuttle goes into space, a new ‘patch’ for the flight suit is designed to commemorate the journey. Some, maybe not all, patches have symbols within the design representing the crew and the mission. That said, sixty-eight’s charge was to design a logo for the Northwest Indiana facility. The stars in this design represent the seven lives lost in the 1986 disaster. The shuttle is lifting off from Northwest Indiana. The shape of the entire logo is ‘patch’ shapped with follows NASA’s lead in patch design. The rainbow? Another little history lesson. At the time of designing this logo, most of NASA’s astronauts graduated from Purdue University and/or were natives of the state of Indiana. Jerry Ross, a Purdue graduate and a northwest Indiana native, was instrumental in bringing the Challenger Learning Center to Northwest Indiana. His symbol for the missions in which he was a part was a rainbow. This explains the rainbow and why the words ‘Northwest Indiana’ are embedded in there.
Lastly, and this is just cool to share. After creating the logo and the overall look for marketing materials, the director of the facility was so excited over their new ‘look’ that she asked that the logo be placed on a banner for the next mission to the space station. Jerry Ross was to take it up with the crew. NASA sent an invitation to come to Cape Canaveral, Florida to view the shuttle lift off with the banner in tow. This speical invite allowed clearance through several checkpoints to view the lift off — so close that mission control could be heard. When the crew returned they signed the banner and it is now proudly displayed at the Center. Neat.