Today was a milestone. It was our first time at the museum as a family of four. Our little girl, Jane, was born on April 26. The first three months were the typical haze of sleeplessness and unpredictability that comes with having a new baby. While that still holds true for the most part, we’re starting to feel more comfortable going out every so often. The fact that she does not enjoy the car makes trips difficult, so we really try to be selective in our outings. Since it had been a while since we had gone, and since there was an exhibit that we knew Sebastian would enjoy, we chose to make the journey to The Reading Public Museum. The big exhibition at the museum was titled “Alien Worlds and Androids” and was about potential life on other planets, alien lifeforms on earth, and different types of AI.
The first part of the exhibition we explored was titled, “The Journey of Curiosity”, which was named after the Mars rover, Curiosity. The room contained a space-inspired seat which faced a video screen that played a recreation of the voyage to and exploration of Mars. Although I’m not sure he could fully process what the video was about, Sebastian was really entranced with this part of the exhibition and came back to it several times during our trip. Personally, I found the recreation to be captivating as well as educational.
The other aspect of this exhibition that Sebastian really enjoyed were the hands-on activities. One of the activities contained a picture of a robot which would do different things when different circuits were connected. This exercise not only demonstrates how electrical currents work, but it also provides young children an opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. In another room there were several tables consisting of ball and joint-type building blocks. The tables contained pictures of different forms you could construct. I was really excited about these, because unlike traditional blocks which restrict movement, these allowed for connections to move freely, thus expanding the possibilities of what could be built. This helps children learn about more sophisticated forms of construction. Even Jane really liked these! However Sebastian’s favorite activity was a very sophisticated claw game. The “claw” was a robotic arm which required two joysticks and two buttons to operate. While Sebastian was a little too young to have the dexterity to work this well, that didn’t stop him from trying. He did manage to pick up a few of the blocks. For older children and adults, the exercise gives you different combinations of blocks to stack, which actually makes it quite a challenging exercise.
Now while younger children will probably find the activities/videos to be the most interesting part of the exhibition, older children and adults will really enjoy the many replicas of famous aliens, robots and androids. For me, this was by far the coolest part of the exhibit. Since Sebastian had never seen any of the movies that these characters were from, he wasn’t able to understand their significance or why mommy was so excited. The exhibition featured: Xenomorph XX121 from the movie Alien, R2D2 and C3P0 from Star Wars, the cyborg from Terminator, Iron Man, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Robby from Forbidden Planet. When I asked Sebastian which was his favorite character, he responded with “R2D2, the robot trash can!” LOL!
What I liked about this exhibit is that it bridged the gap between science and science fiction. I have always felt that the purpose of science fiction is to show us some of the possibilities that science is capable of through entertainment and imagination. This exhibition did a really great job of conveying this which makes for an experience that has the potential to appeal to many different types of people. From scientists, to sci-fi enthusiasts, to gamers, to engineers, this exhibition is sure to be a hit!