Laura Antolak, of Rolla, was recently honored with a 2014 Make A Difference Award presented by the Society of American Military Engineers at a ceremony held at Rolla Lions Club Park earlier this month.

Laura Antolak, of Rolla, was recently honored with a 2014 Make A Difference Award presented by the Society of American Military Engineers at a ceremony held at Rolla Lions Club Park earlier this month.
Antolak serves as the imagineering coordinator for the Kaleidoscope Discovery Center’s "Without Walls," a program under the auspices of The Community Partnership offering interactive, hands-on activities focusing on engineering, science, technology, the environment, arts and math.
The Society of American Military Engineers is a professional military engineering association in the United States, uniting architecture, engineering, construction, facility management and environmental entities and individuals in the public and private sectors to prepare for — and overcome — natural and man-made disasters. The organization also seeks to improve security at home and abroad.
As part of the honor, Antolak was named to the 2014 Mid-Missouri STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Academy.
Antolak was nominated by Missouri University of Science and Technology Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, who said Antolak has truly made a difference in the community and was a deserving recipient for this award.
"Laura has been instrumental in bringing to this community its first Junior First Lego League Expo," said Schrader. "This annual program focuses on building an interest in science and engineering in children ages 6 to 9. It features a real-world challenge, to be explored through research, critical thinking and imagination."
A Junior First Lego League Expo is guided by adult coaches and the Junior First Lego League core values. Team members work with Lego elements and motorized parts to build ideas and concepts and present them for review.
"Laura sparked this movement in Rolla in 2013 by leading a single team of about six children," explained Schrader, "but growth has been exponential, and more than 30 children from seven teams participated in the 2014 event held on the Missouri S&T campus in April."
Antolak said she appreciated the honor but wanted to recognize others who have worked hard to make the project successful.
"Martina Hahn-Baur, our other professional volunteer, has worked tirelessly," explained Antolak. "We also had a lot of support from team sponsors, parents and other volunteers. The Community Partnership has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground.
"This award is significant to me because I was nominated by Chancellor Schrader and that adds validity to our mission at Kaleidoscope Discovery Center," said Antolak. "Being recognized by someone of this stature is important because hopefully it will spur recognition by the rest of the community as we move forward. We just completed our first year, and we look forward to many more years."
Antolak said that Kaleidoscope Discovery Center will need financial and volunteer support as the program moves ahead.
"A lot of programs like Junior First Lego exist in the larger cities and we are just raising awareness and facilitating the creation of teams. It's important to engage our kids at an early age. We need to demystify science and technology and bring awareness to our environment because these are our future leaders. They need to understand why and how things work in the world around them, so that they can create a better future for themselves."
Antolak equates this learning experience to an actual kaleidoscope.
"With a kaleidoscope, you are looking through a lens and see an image, but you turn the lens and you see the same things differently,” she said.
According to Antolak, when young people experience the hands-on activities that Kaleidoscope Discovery Center brings to the community, they are able to see the world around them through the lens of engineering, science, technology, the environment, arts and math and begin to understand how things work in our world."
For more information about Kaleidoscope Discovery Center, or to donate to the program, contact Antolak at 573-368-2849 or email People also can find Kaleidoscope Discovery Center "Without Walls" on Facebook.