South Florida Science Center Creates New ‘Hack Shack’

“Hack Shack,” the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium’s newest education initiative, is just as the name implies — a technology getaway for curious minds to explore computers and coding. Open to students in fifth through eighth grade, the group meets the first Thursday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m.

Designed with fun in mind, the meetings include topics such as music and video games. The tech team is led by longtime science center educator Chris Pait, who was recently promoted to technical programs coordinator.

“After the successful launch of our GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) Club, which sells out monthly, we wanted to have a learning opportunity that included science-minded girls and boys,” CEO Lew Crampton said. “‘Hack Shack’ expands our educational opportunities with a focus on technology. Along with our other programming, it keeps us ahead of the curve and instrumental in developing young talent.”

“Hack Shack” is a technology club that focuses on computer basics. The December theme, “Scratch Music,” experimented with digital sounds and music making within the Scratch environment. The January theme, “Intro to Coding,” explores the basics of computer coding, offering students the opportunity to write a few basic programs in several different coding languages. Due to the holiday, the January club will meet on Thursday, Jan. 8.

Pait is in charge of the science center’s ever-expanding technical programs, including “Hack Shack,” Lego League and robotics programming. A West Palm Beach native who has fond memories of the science center as a child, Pait has a bachelor’s degree in music, with an outside field in zoology, from the University of Florida. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in marine environmental science at Nova Southeastern University.

“It is important to have a space for young curious minds to explore the wonders of technology,” he said. “You never know what an introduction to science can do for a young child. I can attest to this myself, as I grew up coming to the science center, which I have now turned into a lifelong passion and career. The first ‘Hack Shack’ meeting was a blast, and we expect continued enthusiasm surrounding computers and coding.”

The South Florida Science Center & Aquarium, recently named nonprofit of the year by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, features more than 50 hands-on educational exhibits, an 8,000-gallon aquarium featuring both local and exotic marine life, a digital planetarium, a conservation research station, a Florida exhibit hall and an interactive Everglades exhibit.

“Afterlife: Tombs & Treasures of Ancient Egypt,” the science center’s newest traveling exhibit, features more than 200 ancient and authentic artifacts.

“Hack Shack” is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers, and snacks are provided. Space is limited, so reservations are required. To sign up, visit, call (561) 832-2026 or e-mail

ABOVE: Chris Pait