Maryland Science Center
November 9, 2009
On October 25, I went to the Maryland Science Center, in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, I explored how this institution presented its exhibits to educate the public. Most of the displays, mainly interactive exhibits, were oriented for children. There were many different scientific galleries ranging from the Science Arcade, Your Body, Inside Story, Spacelink, Newton's Alley, and Dinosaur Mysteries to name a few. This field trip actually made my weekend fun and I learned a lot.
Newton's Alley was the very first alley I saw when I came into this museum. I would say that this gallery and the “Your body inside story” gallery were my favorite. I forgot a lot of my physics since high school so it was exciting seeing all these exhibits again. Some of the many exhibits at this gallery taught how an object move on a spinning surface, why do clouds move, how pulley help reduce force needed to pull yourself up, how balls made sound, and how liquid can jump. The first display that attracted me was the “Why do clouds move display.” This display allows us to put our hands clouds and it was just really cool to see how the clouds move. The display main objective was to show how currents of warm and cold air keep clouds moving. Outside air falls when it is cooled by the higher, cooler atmosphere and rises when it is heated by the earth. This movement creates wind and moves the cloud. I had a lot of fun waving my hands through the clouds so I expect that this exhibit is popular with kids. However, I would say that this display doesn't fully teach the concept of cloud movement. Kids might have fun waving their hands through the clouds but will not fully understand what's written on the poster next to the exhibit explaining what's happening. The exhibit doesn't show hot and cold air current affecting the clouds.
Another exhibit within the Newton's Alley that really caught my attention was the “How are the pulleys making it easier to pull yourself up?” This display tried to teach the concept of how pulleys work. There are three seats, each held up by three systems of pulleys. The first seat has one pulley, second has two pulley, and third seat has three pulley. This exhibit wants the attendant to try out the seats, try to pull themselves up, and see for themselves which seat is easiest. The display next to this exhibit teaches you that two or more pulley magnify the forced required to pull yourself up, so the more pulley you have, the less effort is required. I thought this was a very unique way to teach the public about pulleys. I had a lot of fun and challenged my friends racing to the top. I believe this exhibit taught the concept of pulleys well and in a very creative way to attract the public. I witness one kid who tried the exhibit and realized that one was harder than another and ask his parents why.
Left: Water Jumping, Right: Moving Clouds
After visiting Newton's Alley, I made my way upstairs into the “Your Body, the Inside Story” gallery. Here I saw many exhibits divided into five sections. The exhibits were divided according to the five senses; there was a section dedicated to the nose, the ears, the eyes, the mouth and the sense of touch. The first exhibit I visited here was “Test your sense of Balance.” This exhibit explains the concept of balance and how the ear played a major role in balance. The object of this exhibit was to get onto a platform and try to balance for as long as you can. When you let go of the handle the timer counts and when the platform touches the ground the timer stops. The exhibit explains that there is a liquid within your ears that moves and send signals to your brain. Your brain in turn signals the rest of your body such as your eyes, feet, and muscles to try and keep balance. This was another fun exhibit and it correctly teaches the concept of balance to the public. This attracts children because it fun to try and see who can balance the longest. After falling a couple of time, they might read the poster and hopefully learn that this unbalanced is changed by the ear. Everyone I saw balanced for about 1 or 2 seconds; I beated them by balancing for a whole 10 seconds.
Left: Playing with Pulleys, Right: Making music
Another exhibit within this gallery is the “One pin can be more painful than a bed of nails.” This exhibit attracted a lot of the public because of its fear affect. Many people would be scared to lie down on a bed of nails so when given the opportunity and told that its safe would be interested. This exhibit teaches the effect of touch. It asks the audience to take a risk and try out the bed assuring the public that it is safe and does not hurt. They explain this by teaching that the brain and nerve work together when you feel pain and pressure. On one nail, the pressure is focus on one small point so it the nerves send signals to the brain for pain. However, on a bed of nails, your weight is spread out over hundreds of nails so the pressure on your skin is so low that nerves don't send signals to your brain. This exhibit did a great job teaching the public about pressure and pain. Those who were brave enough to lay on the bed would never forget that they lied on a bed of nails. From lying on the bed, they would learn that pressure spread over a large surface area doesn't cause pain. For kids, they would tell their friends that they were cool and lied on a bed of nails.
Left: Test your Balance, Right: Balanced for 10 seconds
The last gallery I visited was the “Space Link” gallery. Here I saw the “You Build It” exhibit. This exhibit would definitely attract a lot of kids because it was an exhibit where you play with Lego like pieces and tried to build a space rover. The exhibit gives the kid a mission; he is a NASA engineer working to build a rover to explore Mars. The mission is to build a space rover that could be tested rigorously over Mars like terrain. This exhibit tries to present children with the problems of building a rover. The displays tries to point out that the kid must build a rover that is must be able to work with minimum assistance from Earth, must be able to navigate the terrain, identify areas of potential scientific interest, monitor resources, and schedule activities. They must be low-cost and small enough to fit inside the lander spacecraft. This is definitely too much information for a kid to handle. The child will probability only see the Lego pieces and start playing around. Most would not bother to read the information. Furthermore, the Lego pieces don't give an explanation of how the kid can make it low-cost or able to work without assistance from Earth. This exhibit can attract kids but would not be able to get across the problems of building a rover. However, from these toys the kids can probably learn the importance of size and movements of these Rovers by working with the Legos as NASA do.
Center: Lying on a bed of Pins
Another exhibit within this gallery was “Jeopardy.” This game is like the jeopardy games on TV. This game was broken up into five categories: Fun and the Sun, Baby You're a Star, Moons of the Solar System, Saturn: Lord of the Rings, Planet Factoids, and What Happens in Space. This game tried to educate the public with fun facts from each of these categories. However, I would say that this game is not for children. I could barely answer any of the questions and gave up in frustration. Some questions were what is the size of the Sun, what is another name for the North Star, what is the type of gas in Uranus atmosphere, and what is the brightest star in the night sky? The first two questions were only 100 level question and last two were 500 level questions. I could not get any 100 level questions so I doubt many kids would be able to. The exhibit is fun and does use a touch screen TV which would attract many kids. However, the questions are way too tough for normal kids. After they get the answer, they would forget what the question was or would not bother to learn this information.
Left: The Mission, Right: Play with Legos
The Maryland Science Center has to keep up with shopping malls, amusement parks in order to attract customers. At the same time, they cannot be too expensive and must fulfill their goal of educating the public. One way for the Maryland Science Center to attract costumers is to do promotion with other Baltimore harbor shops and attractions. They can offer packages and promotion for boat rides and food in the harbor. One way to reduce price is to increase the number of volunteers. I'm sure that many college and high school students would be glad to help out at the museum. They can set up programs so high school students can interact with children and help teach them about science.
Left: Wear an actual astronaut suit, Right: Play Spcae Jeopardy
NASA has made preparations to return to the moon with two scouts. An Atlas 5 rocket is to launch the two probes, Lunar CRater Observation, a powerful lunar orbiter, and Sensing Satellite, a smaller spacecraft, to the moon on a mission to search for moon ice water. After many delay attempts at launch, the research team are eager to launch. This mission will hopefully lay the foundation for plans to return astronauts to the moon.
Brunet, Eggers, and Deegan have shown that small drops of water can defy gravity, even at incline as steep as 85 degrees. These drops can travel upward when the surface experiences strong vibration. These vibrations overcome the surface tension experienced as the drop is compressed, creating a net force that drives the drop forward and uphill. However, these drops must meet certain criteria such as small size and medium viscosity.
Last modified: November 9, 2009