Located 20 miles from Black Hills State University, scientists at the Sanford Underground Research Facility are exploring of some of the most compelling, transformational questions within particle physics, cosmology/astrophysics, and nuclear physics. Nearly a mile underground in a former gold mine, physicists are seeking to make the world's first direct detection of dark matter and to determine if neutrinos are their own anti-particle. Numerous additional experiments are at varying stages of development, including one to simulate the synthesis of elements within exploding stars and another to catch a beam of neutrinos sent through the Earth from Fermilab near Chicago. Researchers are also collecting biological samples, examining rock properties, engineering astonishingly sensitive detectors, and measuring seismic waves.
Education and outreach have been central to the Sanford Lab vision from the outset. The state of South Dakota and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford have invested in the creation of Sanford Lab in part for its educational promise. Black Hills State University works in close collaboration with Sanford Lab to help realize this promise.
Formalized in the spring of 2014, the mission of the Sanford Science Education Center is to develop and facilitate rich, innovative learning experiences that
- deepen understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,
- engage and connect diverse audiences, and
- inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and educators.
In support of its mission, the Center draws upon and leverages the science and engineering of the Sanford Underground Research Facility, the educational resources of Black Hills State University, the capacity for public engagement of the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, the human resources and unique facilities of all three institutions, and their setting within the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The Sanford Science Education Center has been developed in part with a grant from the National Science Foundation (PHY-0970160).
The Sanford Science Education Center is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers. Its first year of membership was 2009.
K-12 curriculum modules that feature the science and engineering of Sanford Lab have been developed in part with funding from South Dakota Space Grant Consortium and South Dakota EPSCoR.