Monday, March 29, 2010

Science exhibit design class


Designing, building, prototyping, testing and evaluating an exhibit is an intense challenge to do in 6 weeks. It is also an apt description of our exhibits course. The course is taught by Alan Nursall who has over 25 years of science programming and exhibit design experience among other things. People familiar with Daily Planet may recognize Alan from the "Alan Nursall Experience" segments.

All of us in the class are now finalizing our projects and getting them ready to be showcased at Science North. We have a small budget and a small amount of time to complete this task. Most of us have been able to scrounge up materials from our own houses or from various areas of the science centre. The guys in our Tech shop are also great. They have built many exhibits over the years and their experience has really helped us figure out what is "doable" and what isn't. We wouldn't be able to do this without the help of all the staff here at Science North - THANKS GUYS!

I'm working on a Shadowgraphing exhibit (Top left picture). You can use shadows to visualize movements in fluids (gases, liquids). Just think about the last time you saw heat waves coming from a barbecue. In my exhibit, a heat source will warm up the water. By shining a light through the aquarium you can project shadows of warm and cold water. Light bends differently when it goes from warm to cold water and vice versa, producing dark and light areas on a whiteboard. What is really interesting to me is that this technique is used to visualize flow around ballistic and aircraft designs. Visitors will be able to place objects in the tank to see this.

Merissa's exhibit involves "brain shortcuts" (right). Think about the last time you reached for coins in your pocket. How do you know which coins are which with your fingers? Well, we've learned it through experience and it helps that each coin is designed to be recognized through touch. For example, dimes are small and thin with ridges and pennies are small with no ridges. From what I understand, the brain makes shortcuts for recognizing the coins. How does this translate though when we try identifying American and British coins? Merissa's exhibit allows people to explore it by putting their hands in boxes of coins.

These pictures are from last week when we were testing the science behind each of our exhibits. Our final exhibits are in the process of being constructed. Stay tuned to be dazzled....

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