Niagara Gazette

July 8, 2013

Buffalo Museum of Science focuses on physics in new studio

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Buffalo Museum of Science has debuted its latest permanent, interactive science studio — the third of eight — and this time it’s all about pulleys, gears, gravity, and racing and crashing cars.

The In Motion studio opened June 22 with a focus on physics, mechanical motion, engineering and organic motion.

“With each (studio) we’re getting better and better, and this one is quite fun and exciting,” said museum CEO Mark Mortenson, pointing out that the gallery space includes a mixture of permanent collection items and specially designed exhibit components.

The science studio includes a gravity machine, where visitors can transport balls through a maze of ramps, funnels and tubes; a crash-test simulator, where a touch screen can create different crash scenarios; a car race, where drivers can build and race small cars on different tracks; a feature where visitors can build a machine using gears, pulleys, belts and lever arms; an air table to create flying devices; a fluid dynamics simulator to explore aerodynamics and turbulence; and a device that allows visitors to record the motion of their own body.

When it comes down to it, physics is a uniquely interactive science to explore, Mortenson said.

“We can keep (kids’) attention a lot longer when they have to create and build things themselves,” he said. “We also like the fact that they can continue to explore time and time again. The whole purpose behind science is testing and fixing and refining.”

The museum pairs the new displays with items from its permanent collection in a way that makes them interactive for museum-goers.

There are “different collections elements (on one side of the display) and then activities on the other side driven by a monitor or an actual physical activity that will highlight and connect the collections element with the activity itself,” Mortenson explained.

One of the key features in the In Motion science studio is three separate, specialized workshops within the space where teachers can take groups of students for more hands-on learning. 

The Move It studio allows students to explore engineering functions and physics, the Makeshift studio features a laser and 3D printers inspired by the “makerspace” movement, and the Sparks studio is oriented to younger students.

“We really like to connect our exhibit components and our workshop spaces to the core curriculum, and now we’re migrating — just as the public schools are — to the next generation of science standards,” set by the state, Mortenson said. 

The workshops are open to public and private school students, as well as homeschoolers.

In Motion follows the first two science studios to open at the BMS — Explore You in the spring of 2012 and Our Marvelous Earth in the fall of 2012. 

Explore You focuses on the health sciences, while the latter highlights the earth sciences. Bug Works, the fourth studio, focusing on invertebrates, is scheduled to open in October 2013, with as-yet unnamed culture, biodiversity, extinction and space studios opening every six months thereafter.

The new studios are part of a physical transformation of the Buffalo Museum of Science building Mortenson said will revitalize the museum. 

“I think people like the openness of the spaces. People love that we’re exposing them to natural light again and not covering widows, and they’re energized by the aesthetic changes,” he said.

The overhaul “places us in quite a unique position. There are not a lot of science centers that are also collection institutions. We’re very fortunate to blend the interactivty of a science center with the collections knowledge and learning of a science museum,” he added. “We can highlight being a natural history museum as well.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: In Motion science studio • WHEN: Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday • WHERE: Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway, Buffalo • MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.sciencebuff.org, or call 896-5200.