Imagine the experience of traveling deep underground in a coal mine elevator. Or meeting Thomas Edison and hearing him explain how he invented the light bulb.

Those are just two of the featured exhibits about the production of energy in the recently unveiled Energy Education Center on the second floor of Entergy’s administrative building at River Bend Nuclear Station.

The new center is the result of a collaborative partnership between members of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear chapter at River Bend and the Louisiana Nuclear Society. The new center is in the same space as the old information center.

“I saw we had all of this capability right here and we hadn’t done much with it for a long time,” said Jeff Hausaman, a nuclear reactor engineer with River Bend who spearheaded the education center project. “The resources were here and we weren’t utilizing them.”

Since September, Hausaman and a group of volunteers worked during their off time and on weekends to finish the new education center. They have updated many of the old exhibits that were in place, and they’ve added a number of new ones as well. They also modernized the center to make learning about energy and its production appealing to youngsters of all ages.

Hausaman said he first came up with the idea after a visit to the LIGO Science Education Center in Livingston Parish.

“We wanted to use the resources that were here and weren’t being used to revitalize this facility and make it a resource for the community,” Hausaman said.

The long-term plan, he says, is to make the education center available for school tours and open house events for the public, like the one held last month celebrating the center’s soft opening with members of the community and local educators. For now, it’s open by appointment for limited tours.

The center is divided into two wings, one with an overview and history of power generation, and the other featuring nuclear power and the role of River Bend.

Beside the coal mine simulator, which features a mock elevator ride down into the earth, the Energy Education Center offers a history of electricity, complete with an animatronic Thomas Edison and iPads for interactive learning about power generation. There also are hands-on experiments such as a bicycle that provides electrical power and informational exhibits about fossil fuels, solar and other energy sources.

The second wing includes a control room simulator and demonstration exhibits about the role of nuclear energy in power generation. Another section focuses on the future of energy production with new technologies.

Hausaman said the center should be completely finished by summer or early fall.

Eventually, he hopes to have a website for the center.

“It’s a continuing project for us,” Hausaman said. “We’re going to keep adding things and improving things that will explore all the facets of energy production. An integral function of the center will be engagement with the community.”