Museum of Fun

Remember the last time you went to a museum exhibit, it probably wasn't any fun because there were signs everywhere that said, "Do not touch." That disappointed you because you wanted to touch the fragile bones of the 3 million year old dinosaur and the feathers of an ancient Hawaiian cloak, but you couldn't. Fortunately, not all museum exhibits are like that. At the Bishop Museum, there was an exhibit that encouraged you to not only touch, but also play with every display.

A volunteer teaches a young girl to control the robotic arm

The Oregon Museum of Science and Technology exhibit, "Engineer It!" is a group of fun, interactive, and educational displays that the whole family can enjoy. The "Engineer It!" exhibit helps kids and adults discover the fun and exciting sides of engineering.

On the opening day of the exhibit, the University of Hawai'i College of Engineering was asked by the Bishop Museum to present a few interactive displays of their own. The College of Engineering did not disappoint those who came to see the exhibit. Engineering students and professors volunteered their time to help fascinate the curious minds of children.

The first display showed how to construct a durable three-truss bridge. The student and faculty volunteers taught eager children how to put the bridge together. At the same time, children learned the basic engineering concepts of tension and compression. After the construction of the bridge was complete, the children were able to crawl through the bridge to test what their efforts had accomplished.

The other display allowed exhibit visitors to control an expensive, high-tech robotic arm. The robotic arm could be programmed to do various tasks or be manipulated by a controller. Those who had the opportunity to control the arm were given the task of picking up and moving around various objects. As for the "Engineer It!" exhibit, it was split up into three areas: Water, Structures, and Wind.

The Water section consisted of stainless steel water tanks where visitors could learn about buoyancy and propulsion. They could design a boat hull by choosing a bow and stern and test the boat for speed in one of the tanks. Visitors could also build rubber band-powered paddleboats with a different numbers of paddles or design a sailboat and test it in a tank with a wind fan.

Future engineer or someone who just wants to play with toys?

The Structures area was made up of shake tables that simulate earthquake conditions, freestanding bridge building activities, and basic activities with pulleys and gears. Visitors could construct a 4-story building and test it for earthquake survivability on a shake table or build a 6-foot tall structure and see if it could withstand a one minute simulated earthquake on the walk-in earthquake platform. If it didn't survive, they could learn how to make it more stable by using cross bracing and shear walls. Visitors could also use a cargo crane to load cargo from a dock to a ship and build bridges using a computer program, paper supports, or wooden blocks and test the bridge for stability.

The Wind section consisted of wind tunnels where visitors could explore aerodynamics. Exhibit visitors could design race cars and judge the car's wind resistance with an electric timer. They could also design and test the propeller for a wind generator and then measure its success in generating energy or make paper airplanes and test it a wind tunnel.

The "Engineer It!" exhibit was a great success, but most importantly, it was a great opportunity for kids, both young and old, to have fun and learn something at the same time.


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