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Contents:
Program 1018

1. the Challenger Center
2. Jack Hankla’s dinosaurs
3. Bert & Bud’s Vintage Coffins
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Perry County

For more information:
Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky, 1 Community College Dr., Hazard, KY 41701, (606) 436-5721, (800) 246-7521

Producer: Dave Shuffett
Videographer: Brandon Wickey
Editor: Jay Akers


The Final Frontier

the Challenger Center

Don’t look now, but kids in Hazard are traveling to Mars and taking samples of comets.

When the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, one of the seven crew members killed was Christa McAuliffe, who was to be NASA’s first “Teacher in Space.” That project was grounded in the wake of the disaster, but the families of the astronauts wanted to find a way to memorialize their loved ones while furthering the project goal of getting kids excited about learning math and science through space exploration. They founded the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which in turn began establishing Challenger Learning Centers around the country.

In the Challenger Centers, classes of 6th graders become the engineers, data specialists, Mission Control technicians, or space station crew. After five to six weeks of preparation with their teacher in their own classroom, they visit the center for the actual “mission.” During this intensive two-and-a-half-hour session, they use realistic research computers, robots, remote glove boxes, star charts, video cameras and monitors, and other equipment—plus all their communication and teamwork skills—to track the progress of their mission and complete their assigned tasks.

The Perry County center, located at Hazard Community College, was the 34th in the country and the first ever approved for a rural area. It was established largely through the efforts of former Hazard High School teacher Alice Noble, who visited a Challenger Center in Indiana and came home determined that Eastern Kentucky should have one. The first mission from Hazard was flown in March 1999. In the first five years, more than 10,000 students participated in missions at the center, coming from as far away as Ashland and Raceland. Center Director Tom Cravens shows us around in this visit.

Watch This Story (8:08)




Boyle County

Producer, videographer: Ernie Lee Martin


Dino Dentist

Jack Hankla’s bone collection

Jack Hankla doesn’t actually work on Tyrannosaurus teeth, but he does collect them—along with all of their other bones. The Danville dentist and his son, John, have built one of the largest and most important private collections of dinosaur fossils in the country. Various pieces of it have been exhibited at museums around the region and the country, but a lot of it is crammed into Jack’s home, which host Dave Shuffett—an enthusiastic fossil hound himself—tours in this segment.

Of course, for this hobby, it helps to be a jigsaw puzzle fan, too. Dave also joins Jack at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts to help disassemble “Stan,” a full-scale T. rex made from both genuine fossil bones and replica parts. (Centre’s news release about the exhibit has a picture of Stan.)

Dinosaur fossils aren’t found in Kentucky, of course. The Hankla collection started with bones from a piece of land the family owned in Wyoming. That particular fossil bed was so productive that the Hanklas have since donated it to the state for research purposes.

Watch This Story (7:01)




Calloway County

For more information:
Bert & Bud’s Vintage Coffins, P.O. Box 995, Murray, KY 42071, (270) 753-9279 or (877) 371-9279

Producer, editor: Cassandra Arza
Videographer: Philip Allgeier


Going Out in Style

Bert & Bud’s Vintage Coffins

Roy Davis (“Bud” to most everyone) knows that some people find his line of work a little gruesome, so he tries to maintain a sense of humor about it. He’s the proprietor and woodworker behind Bert & Bud’s Vintage Coffins—the slogan of which is “Don’t be caught dead without one.”

Bud is also a serious craftsman who believes that the final resting place of one’s earthly remains should reflect the tastes and preferences of the living person. In addition to variations on the vintage “toe-pincher” coffin of the 19th century, sized to fit the individual client, he builds custom coffins that range from the elegant to the whimsical. The men’s magazine Maxim ordered one that looks like a beer bottle to use as a contest prize. Another, shaped like a paddlewheel steamboat, was featured in the PBS documentary The Main Stream. Another has a padded cushion on the lid and will serve as a window seat until its owner puts it to its ultimate use. One client keeps hers in her living room, where it gives new meaning to the term “end table.” And how’s this for a gift for the dedicated do-it-yourselfer: a coffin kit, made of pre-cut pine pieces and ready to be assembled, stained, and lined according to individual preference.

Bud, who says he’s one of the last coffin makers in Kentucky, shows us around his Murray workshop in this visit.

By the way, Bert & Bud’s really was a two-man operation when it started. The “Bert” in the company name (which Bud says he pays a dollar a year for the right to keep using) is for fellow craftsman and former partner Albert Sperath, who moved to Mississippi a while back and had to discontinue his active involvement in the business. Sperath has also been seen on KET, but in a very different context. As a museum curator at Murray State University in the 1990s, he tracked down paintings by Mayfield native Ellis Wilson and put together the first major retrospective of the artist’s work—a project that inspired our own documentary Ellis Wilson—So Much To Paint.

Watch This Story (7:34)


SEASON 10 PROGRAMS: 1001100210031004100510061007
100810091010: Kentucky’s Last Great Places1011101210131014
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