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NANO FUN

Troy museum exposes kids to nano and other fun things

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Maya Turcotte moves plastic piping around to make a design on the magnetic ball wall at The Childrens Museum of Science and Technology in the RPI Technology Park in Troy.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Maya Turcotte moves plastic piping around to make a design on the magnetic ball wall at The Childrens Museum of Science and Technology in the RPI Technology Park in Troy.

— Kate Cabral visited the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology in Troy for the first time on Monday to expose her children to science, and to have some fun.

Cabral’s 21⁄2-year-old daughter, Emma, was fascinated with one of the museum’s first exhibits, running back to it each time Cabral attempted to move on to the next display.

“It’s cool,” a wide-eyed Emma said. “Like giant Lite-Brites!”

A few minutes later, she shuffled over to join her mom at another exhibit a few feet away. But she quickly turned back around and exclaimed, “No, I want to go play with the lights!”

The exhibits featured at the children’s museum are focused on science and technology, specifically nanotechnology. The museum is part of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

There’s a Magnetic Ball Wall to create a unique path for a ball to travel; a Skyline Tool Box with hardware, tools and materials to design and build 3D structures; and Nano!, a series of hands-on activities to build nano-related products.

“We just did two or three things, but Emma keeps going back to that exhibit,” Cabral said smiling, while holding her 41⁄2-week-old daughter, Adeline. “We came here to explore and see what it is all about. We want to expose her to some science.”

Laurie Miedema, director of operations at the museum, said all of the displays are created to help kids learn about science, without realizing that they are actually learning.

Children are welcome to touch everything at the museum, except for the fish.

“We want them touching everything and learning from what they see and feel,” Miedema said. “The fish are off-limits though.”

The museum houses several fish tanks with a variety of fish. There is also an Operation W.I.L.D. room — Working in the Living Domain — that has reptiles, spiders, hedgehogs and owls.

The W.I.L.D. room smells like a rainforest, with the scent of dirt and pond water lingering in the air. A table at the entrance was covered in clumps of snakeskin, with bearded dragons greeting visitors in two tanks in front of the table.

Miedema said the museum’s staff, which includes up to 20 employees during the summer, hosts animal and planetarium shows. Nanotechnology plays a role with animals also.

For example, a sign on top of a tank with a gecko said, “What’s nano about a gecko?”

Basically, geckos are like Spiderman.

“Geckos can climb up walls and across ceilings, but there’s no glue on the bottom of their feet,” the sign said. “When a gecko climbs, millions of tiny nano-sized hairs on its foot bond with molecules in the surface of the wall.”

During the summer the museum offers more than a dozen one-week camps for children ages 5 through 14. Monday marked the first day of the “Physics of Amusement Park Science” camp for 11- through 14-year-olds.

A group of nine kids sat in a room with instructor Ashley Haggerty brainstorming about rides that would be in an amusement park. Then Haggerty explained how those rides work.

“A ferris wheel! And that thing that tilts,” the kids said as Haggerty wrote the ideas down on a dry erase board.

“I think that’s called a Tilt-A-Whirl,” she said as she wrote. One girl smiled and said, “Yeah, that! Tilt-A-Whirl is my favorite ride.”

Lunch boxes were lined up on the windowsill at the back of the room. But before lunch, the kids were tasked with building a pendulum using a box, cup and yarn.

They broke into groups of two and three while Haggerty passed out the materials.

“Swiss Miss box, yes! We got the cool box,” one boy said while holding the box up in the air. He received high-fives from his group members after making the observation.

Meanwhile, Emma was still stuck on the exhibit with the lights. Miedema said the giant Lite-Brite allows kids to insert pegs and make patterns. It is also the most popular among younger kids.

The museum is set to move from Troy to Albany on the nanocollege campus once the school’s new Zero Energy Nanotechnology (ZEN) building is finished next year.

 
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