ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS — Two dozen fourth graders were the first visitors Tuesday to LG Electronics’ Exploratorium, a hands-on learning space inside the company’s North American headquarters designed to let local schoolchildren interact with robotics and other cutting-edge technology.
Construction of the 350,000-square-foot building was completed in 2020, but its opening was delayed by the pandemic. Now, two years later, the company is beginning to welcome visitors and more of the site’s 900 employees to the $300 million headquarters.
“Today we’re excited to open the doors of our home to our neighbors and welcome them to our campus,” said Thomas Yoon, the CEO of LG Electronics North America, at the building’s ribbon cutting Tuesday morning. “We’re paying it forward by inspiring tomorrow’s innovators with a fun, interactive educational space.”
The company bought the 27-acre property at 111 Sylvan Ave., overlooking the Palisades, in 2010, and plans were approved the following year for a 143-foot-tall building, more than four times the normal limit of 35 feet.
But construction was delayed after residents sued the company and the borough contesting the project’s approval, and conservationists lobbied to lower the height of the building, saying the design would breach the tree line and irreversibly alter the view of the Palisades.
After several years of legal wrangling, the company announced in 2015 an agreement with conservationist groups to reduce the height to less than 70 feet. More than 1,500 trees were planted at the campus, and nearly 30% of the building’s electricity is powered by solar energy, company officials said Tuesday.
The LG Exploratorium was designed to give elementary and middle school students a chance to learn about science, technology, engineering and math in a hands-on, immersive environment.
The company hopes the space will be a destination for class field trips and inspire a new generation to pursue careers in science and technology fields, said Amy Nakamoto of Discovery Education, which partnered with LG to create a curriculum for schools to follow before and after their visits.
On Tuesday, fourth graders from Englewood Cliffs’ Upper School, which was recently awarded a Blue Ribbon of Excellence from the state Department of Education, bounced from exhibit to exhibit, posing for a robotic artist that sketched their image using artificial intelligence, jumping into the driver’s seat of a car for a virtual reality simulation, or playing a large-scale air hockey-like game using wireless-remote-controlled robots.
Other exhibits include a digital aquarium made up of 32 curved 55-inch screens, where visitors can design and paint fish and marine life before watching them swim away, and a green-screen television studio with backgrounds that allow kids to imagine themselves reporting the news , visiting a jungle or exploring space.
“These kinds of experiences you can’t re-create in a classroom,” fourth grade teacher Christine Torticill said. “These are hands-on experiences where the children can interact with technology and see the different ways it impacts people and the environment.”
Before the trip, the students learned about existing technology and categorized ideas into the ways they are used, she said. Afterward, the children will begin creating their own invention prototypes.
“The value of these tangible learning experiences is priceless,” said Jaclyn Auriemma, the school’s supervisor of instruction. “We’re trying to foster students’ imaginations and creativity to develop them into lifelong learners who are excited to inquire about the world around them.”
After taking a drive in the virtual reality car, 9-year-old Sohan Shah said he was inspired to come up with an invention, maybe a car that can fly, or a vehicle controlled entirely by the driver’s mind.
“It’s amazing. It’s like going into the future,” said Ella Lee, 9, as she sat for the robotic artist. “You don’t get to experience this every day.”