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New Discovery Center CEO continues ‘upstream workforce development’

Tyler Moles is promoted to succeed Rob Blevins at the Springfield nonprofit

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As the newly appointed CEO of Discovery Center of Springfield Inc., Tyler Moles has a vision of continuing the momentum of the nonprofit to inspire kids through science-based education and entertainment.

Effective March 4, Moles succeeds Rob Blevins, who last year was named chief operating officer of the national Yass Prize and continued to lead the Discovery Center.

“One thing I really want to do is just continue what we’ve been doing over the past three years,” Moles said. “The goal is to inspire kids a generation from now and a generation after that.”

The Discovery Center serves multiple purposes, including its interactive, hands-on science center and a private K-8 school focused on science, technology, engineering and math programming.

“I call it upstream workforce development,” Moles said of the exhibits that aim to educate and entertain. “If you get them interested young, they will follow that through to adulthood.”

Moles previously served as COO of the Discovery Center since 2021 after a seven-year stint as director of development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks Inc, where he previously worked with Blevins.

With Blevins and Moles in key leadership roles, the Discovery Center in December 2021 received the $1 million Yass Prize for its education work during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to past reporting. Amid the pandemic, the Discovery Center offered child care services for health care workers, and the nonprofit launched its private school, Discovery School at the Center.

New exhibits at the downtown science center, 438 St. Louis St., also have come online.

Moles was instrumental in a $1 million exhibit that debuted last year. Dubbed Jurassic Discovery Unearthed, the gallery features animatronic dinosaurs including a Tyrannosaurus rex, long-necked Elasmosaurus and triceratops. A T-rex suit for guests to wear also recently was added, said Moles, who pointed to the addition of a publicly available playground in front of the center, as well.

While keeping some planned new exhibits under wraps, Moles said one goal is to buy the rights to fabricate a Smithsonian exhibit at the Discovery Center.

“We’ve got some really good stuff in the pipeline,” he said.

Discovery School at the Center is in growth mode, as well.

The school’s capacity currently is 100 students, Moles said, noting that would grow to 120 in the near future.

“We’re just getting ready to open a brand new pre-K classroom,” he said.

The school additionally is looking at properties outside of the Discovery Center for further expansion, Moles said.

At the Discovery Center, Moles leads a team of over 50 employees, including part-time staffers. The organization, which has a 2024 operating budget of $2.5 million, ranked No. 11 on SBJ’s list this year of the area’s largest local charitable nonprofits.

In succeeding Blevins, Moles said he has “big shoes to fill.”

“The community expects a lot,” Moles said. “Fortunately, the same core team is here.”

Moles is the fourth CEO at the Discovery Center, which was incorporated in 1991. Blevins had led the nonprofit since 2018.

“I’ve known Tyler since before he helped me get my first job in the nonprofit sector,” Blevins said in a news release. “There isn’t a harder working or more passionate human being than Tyler. He’s also one of the most creative people I know, too, but the best thing about him is that he will do whatever it takes to serve our kids.

“I truly believe that the mission is in better hands and that we’re going to benefit as a community for generations to come because of not only what he is going to do as CEO but because of what he’s already done.”

Discovery Center board President AJ Exner said the promotion would help the nonprofit “maintain momentum.”

“As a board, it was an easy decision,” Exner said in the release. “His consistent ability to lead through challenges and make the most of opportunities has significantly advanced our mission. I have no doubt that with his hard work and creativity that we will grow into something that will be incredible and sustainable.”

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