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Imaginarium to be Next Business in Emporia Main Street Incubator Space

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | June 28, 2022

Emporia, KS – The Incubator Space at Emporia Main Street will be filling up soon with engineering materials, robotics, and science supplies for kids to tinker with. Founded by two certified teachers, Melanie Curtis and Dell Jacob, Imaginarium is a new nonprofit organization created to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to area youth.

Imaginarium, located at 729 Commercial Street, is set to open enrollment in August with classes starting after Labor Day. The curriculum will be tailored to students ranging from 5-12 years old with courses in, robotics, engineering, sewing, animation, woodworking, and more. Classes will be held Monday-Friday, mostly in the evenings. Students will attend classes at the same time every week with classes ranging from 30 to 60 minutes. Staff hope to extend offerings to preschoolers, teenagers, and adults in the future.

Imaginarium will also focus on an initiative to partner with area districts in Lyon, Chase, Coffee, Greenwood, Morris, and Osage counties to bring STEM opportunities into their schools. Centering on students, kindergarten – sixth grade, Curtis and Jacob will collaborate with districts to customize a curriculum to meet each of their needs. The duo will then travel to area schools with the needed supplies to work with students. 
Times will also be available for homeschooled students.

Curtis, who holds both her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology from Emporia State University, has been teaching for 21 years – with her the last 6 years of her career as the technology teacher at William Allen White Elementary. As she moves from the classroom to the nonprofit arena, Curtis hopes to open doors to future career opportunities for students and give rural youth access to different types of technology.

“When we researched this concept, we found similar centers all around the country, but in Kansas they were only located in larger cities like Wichita and Topeka,” explained Curtis. “We also found that STEM jobs are growing significantly, and they pay better than non-STEM jobs. We want kids to be exposed to STEM in a fun way, so they are more likely to have a life-long interest in those topics as well as pursue careers in those fields.”

Jacob, a graduate from Emporia State in Elementary Education (bachelor’s degree) and STEM Instruction (master’s degree), has dedicated the past 12 years to teaching elementary students in Emporia. Jacob started in Emporia Public Schools as a fourth-grade teacher and worked with students in that capacity until 2020, when she transitioned to develop the K-5 STEM program at Walnut Elementary.

Making sure area children have access to STEM education is a driving force for Jacob to move forward with the Imaginarium concept.

“As a parent, I am always looking for new activities that my kids will enjoy. We frequently travel out of town to experience engaging, fun, and educational opportunities,” said Jacob. “It’s important for our community to have access to STEM education and a space for children to showcase their creativity. Imaginarium will help area youth develop skills that will guide them to be successful in their future careers.”

This spring, Curtis and Jacob initially presented their concept to the community at the Show of Hands Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition hosted by Emporia Main Street. At the event, participating entrepreneurs made a five-to-seven-minute concept pitch to a panel of judges and the audience. After all the entrepreneurs presented, the audience was able to vote for their favorite concepts with tickets. Each ticket represented $10 that was granted to the concept of the voters choosing.

“We were really pleased to have Imaginarium as one of our pitches,” said Casey Woods, Executive Director for Emporia Main Street. “The Show of Hands initiative was designed to impower the community to support local entrepreneurs, and this concept was very well received by the audience. Emporia Main Street is looking forward to incubating Imaginarium and helping them become a permanent fixture in the community.”

To learn more about Imaginarium and their upcoming classes, camps, and outreach programs, you can visit their Facebook and Instagram pages at @emporiaimaginarium.

For those that would like to support this organization, financial gifts may be made to the Emporia Community Foundation c/o Imaginarium or you can contact the founders directly.

Melanie Curtis can be reached via email at [email protected] and Dell Jacob can be reached at [email protected].

For more information on the Incubator Space at Emporia Main Street or the Show of Hands Entrepreneurial Competition, please contact Emporia Main Street at 620-340-6430.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.