Ellis Corets Bio

By Helen Kim

Ellis Corets is the Founder and President of the Board of Directors of the Cascades Science Center Foundation (CSCF).  A retired Boeing engineering manager, his career paths also included civil engineering, and financial consulting.  Among his many interests and areas of community service he founded and directed “Pedal for a Purpose” which integrates fundraising programs with major bicycle riding events.  As a cancer survivor, he actively supports cancer research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. He is a founding member of the Eastside Astronomical Society. As a member of the Friends of the Planetarium he helped in the acquisition of equipment and putting on star shows on at the Bellevue Community College Planetarium.  Ellis resides in Bellevue, Washington, with his wife, Roberta and has four daughters and five grandchildren.

 A gyrating needle in a compass held by the small hands of an unrecognized genius.  A tide pool microcosm to the clear eyes of a little girl who would one day champion coast-line environmental protection. The image of jewel-like constellations scattered onto the ceiling of a planetarium transported into the mind of a 7-year old boy from the Bronx who would grow up to help found an astronomical society.  For Ellis Corets, these are the definitive moments that ignite the imagination of a child for a lifetime of curiosity and love for the sciences.  

From Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein, Ellis recounts how Einstein as a young child sick in bed was given a compass by his father. Holding it, he became overwhelmed by the unseen forces that moved the needle of a compass. Ellis points out how Einstein went on to dedicate his whole life to defining such unseen forces including gravity, the theory of relativity, and quantum theory. 

On a family outing to Whidbey Island, Ellis witnessed his elementary age daughter’s captivation with life in tide pools.  For Elaine Corets this encounter lead to a lifetime of study- zoology, marine biology, oceanography and ecology.  Elaine currently works as Latin America coordinator for the Mangrove Action Project and related coastal preservation. 

As a young boy from the Bronx visiting New York’s Hayden Planetarium, Ellis was mesmerized by the night sky on display. The following week at school, he recalls being able to name the constellations questioned by the teacher.  Many years later, he helped found the Eastside Astronomical Society, and his passion for the sciences continues to influence his life and those around him today. 

Why a science center for children?  Ellis envisions the Cascades Science Center providing these exceptional life experiences to school-age children.  “I think we completely underestimate the capacity of 4-7 year-olds to comprehend complex subjects.  At about that age, we learned a very complex equation with 26 independent variables, and given the first, second, third, or 18th, 19th, 20th variable, you would give me the next three variables without question. If I say ‘A, B, C,’ a child at that age will say ‘D, E, F.’ I have never lost this bet. This is why the whole focus of the science center will be on children from kindergarten to 8th grade, to capture this critical time of learning capacity,” says Ellis. 

Although the initial words of “we need a science center” arose out of a practical need for a dedicated meeting location for the Eastside Astronomical Society and other scientific organizations, it soon became evident to Ellis that our region would gain much more than a meeting place from a state of the art science center.

Enrollment in the math and science fields in colleges are down by 50% nation-wide, and although our region is known for its high technology, bioscience and aerospace industries, many companies are recruiting from overseas.  The Cascades Science Center hopes to capture the talent and imagination of a generation of children who would be inspired to enter science and math as fields of study.

“Everything starts somewhere,” Ellis observes as he recollects the first time he recognized what engineering could accomplish.  It was a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in New York City, at age eight.  He recalls an interactive mechanical demonstration of how long it would take for pressure applied to a foot pedal to translate to gas being delivered to an engine.  He was amazed that his father could perform the task so much faster than he, and that the task could be measured. The science center must be a hands-on for the kids.

Bringing in interactive concepts that have been successfully implemented by other centers is also part of the plan.  As a concept to follow, he sites the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) interactive displays and science labs. 

“Kids put on goggles and get to perform a chemistry experiment at the chemistry lab!”  Ellis says with a how-cool-is-that expression.  

Among many other activities, OMSI also offers kids a chance to program a robot, feel an earthquake, or even dig for dinosaurs in the fossil pit. That kids could have such experiences and more, is what Cascades Science Center will bring to our community and region.

A science playground demonstrating physics principles such as the ones in Ithaca, NY, and Gloucester, MA, is another feature that is envisioned.  Kids see classroom concepts in action such as pulleys (the raising of an anchor), levers (an adjustable see-saw), and pendulums (three side-by-side swings on different length chains). 

Beyond these examples, Ellis is looking even further ahead, “the Cascades Science Center will be designed so that it can be re-shaped to the science center of the future as well as meeting the interests of today.”

The “downstream effect” is Ellis’ habit of looking at the far off possibilities and probabilities. The things that we do today will have outcomes that can positively influence the future. The inspiration that directs a child’s path is one of those, and Ellis is ready to invest in the long haul. 

“We may not see it in our lifetime, but there will be something a child sees at our science center, or experiences, that will take them into a journey of exploration and discovery that will change the world.  Come join us at this exciting time at the Cascades Science Center.”