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Friday, October 10, 2008

Coming Up: Free 2nd Sunday at the Tech Museum of Innovation

This Sunday (and every 2nd Sunday) is free at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. We went last weekend for the Leonardo exhibit (see this blog post for a review) and spent a few hours after wandering through the hands-on exhibits.

Some of our favorites: the bobsled, where you try to steer a bobsled down a racing course. I love the bobsled, and got to ride a wheeled one down the Olympic course in Park City. So this one isn’t quite so exciting – it doesn’t really move, but it’s fun to steer it and see how you did on the track. All the entry tickets have bar codes, so you can scan your bar code and get readouts or photos at various stations.

The wheelchair race is another favorite. Though the wheelchair is stationery, but the wheels do move, so you get a great arm workout. (My husband and I are very competitive – he always wins this one, though I do beat my kids at this race),

Downstairs, there’s a fun Leonardo’s Workshop set up, in conjunction with the Leonardo exhibit. This one is open to everyone, even if you didn’t pay extra for the Leonardo exhibit. In the workshop, kids learn about perspective, creating a drawing on vellum, while looking through a peephole. They then trace this onto paper to take home. They also practice writing their names backwards (“mirror writing”), like Leonardo did, and they can see their writing looking normal in the mirrors there.

We spent a lot of time at the MPG Marathon driving station, where you try to maximize your tank of gas by choosing the size of car, number of cylinders, and then racing a course to see how far you get on the tank of gas. To my kids, it was just a fun driving game, though we did try to teach them how each choice affected the gas usage. Again, my husband and I raced (he won).

This was part of a “green” exhibit, where kids learned how to use solar, wind and hydro power to “power the tower” – a tower with light rings. The more energy they created with these sources, the more light created. They arranged solar discs on magnets to hit the solar panel in just the right way, and learned how to create the best wind turbine using a combination of blades. Zachary liked powering up an alternative type of battery to make a car zoom uphill. The kids loved taking turns riding a stationery bike to light up incandescent and LED light bulbs, seeing how much less power it took for the LED bulbs.

Before leaving, we promised Dori we’d go to Mr. Potato Head, her favorite exhibit. By using logic sentences like “light or voice equals television,” Dori could make things happen in Mr. Potato Head’s universe. This area brings back memories of college logic class, that I took only because I was going to be a philosophy major. That phase passed after I got a D in logic (I was glad I passed). Maybe there’s hope for my daughter, though.

Parking here is a little bit of a pain – on weekends, there is free parking in the lots on 2nd/San Carlos, and on weekdays you get your parking ticket validated (so it costs $5 max).

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