WEST PALM BEACH —  Curious kids who want to learn about computers and coding have a place just for them — the “Hack Shack.” The name may sound nefarious, but it’s actually the newest education initiative of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium.

The program is a technology getaway for curious minds to explore computers and coding.  Open to students in 5th to 8th grade, the group meets 5 to 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. Designed with fun in mind, the meetings include topics such as music and video games. Longtime Science Center educator Chris Pait leads the tech team.

“After the successful launch of our GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) Club, which sells out monthly, we wanted to have a learning opportunity that included science minded girls and boys,” said Lew Crampton, Science Center CEO.  “’Hack Shack’ expands our educational opportunities with a focus on technology. Along with our other programming, it keeps us ahead of the curve and instrumental in developing young talent.”

“Hack Shack” is a technology club that focuses on computer basics. The December theme, “Scratch Music,” experimented with digital sounds and music making within the Scratch environment. The January theme, “Intro to Coding,” explores the basics of computer coding, offering students the opportunity to write a few basic programs in several different coding languages. Because of  the holiday, the January club will meet on Thursday, Jan. 8.

Chris Pait is newly in charge of the Science Center’s ever expanding technical programs, including “Hack Shack,” Lego League, Robotics and Maker Camps and robotics programming.  Pait, a West Palm Beach native who has fond memories of the Science Center as a child, has a bachelor’s degree in music, with an outside field in zoology, from the University of Florida.  He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in marine environmental science at Nova Southeastern University.

“It is important to have a space for young curious minds to explore the wonders of technology,” said Pait.  “You never know what an introduction to science can do for a young child. I can attest to this myself, as I grew up coming to the Science Center, which I have now turned into a lifelong passion and career.  The first ‘Hack Shack’ meeting was a blast and we expect continued enthusiasm surrounding computers and coding.”

The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, recently named the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches’ nonprofit of the year, features more than 50 hands-on educational exhibits, an 8,000 gallon fresh and salt water aquarium featuring both local and exotic marine life, a digital planetarium, conservation research station, Florida exhibit hall and an interactive Everglades exhibit.  Afterlife: Tombs & Treasures of Ancient Egypt, the Science Center’s newest traveling exhibit, features more than 200 ancient and authentic artifacts.  All exhibits will be on display during Afterlife’s special showing.  In true Science Center style, the highly anticipated blockbuster exhibition has interactive components, making it feel like guests have taken a trip to Egypt to explore ancient artifacts and tombs.

“Hack Shack” is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers and snacks are provided.  Space is limited and reservations are required. To sign up, visit www.sfsciencecenter.org, call 561-832-2026 or email programs@sfsciencecenter.org.