STEAM PARK Premieres at Hands-On Museum, Wows First-Time Attendees

Science, Technology, Arts, and Math Promoted for All

STEAM PARK at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum premiered on August 18, with community members, museum officials, the media, families, private-sector industry leaders, politicians, and others on hand to commemorate the occasion. They now invite everyone to participate in promoting everything STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) related — all under one roof.

The United States Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was at the event and states less emphasis is needed on politics and more on science and facts, especially now during a pandemic, and to solve scientifically-based challenges in the future. Dingell states that when she was growing up, STEM fields were not encouraged for girls. She states that she is pleased with the opening of the STEAM PARK and to see the inclusion of everyone.

The STEAM PARK includes a number of new exhibits. Some of these include a look at the inside of a 17th-century timepiece clock, a 16-foot mechanically interactive maze next to an arched window titled “Window Maze Ball Machine,” propeller chair connected to pulleys, and many other interactive, hands-on play stations.

STEAM PARK
Image courtesy of Donna Iadipaolo.

Exhibits at the STEAM PARK

In total, the STEAM PARK includes 23 exhibits that were created in association with Toyota engineers in Ann Arbor. The STEAM exhibits explore such concepts as aerodynamics, structural supports, mechanical machines, and many more ideas.

“STEAM PARK is a hands-on, minds-on experience designed to offer a tactile one-on-one or group experience consisting of 23 interactive and magical mechanical exhibits,” describes Mel Drumm, President & CEO of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and the Leslie Science & Nature Center. “STEAM PARK was created in partnership with Toyota engineers over the last four years. The exhibits are designed for hands-on engagement that reveals the inside-out mechanical marvels normally hidden from sight. Our exhibits explore simple machines, structures, aerodynamics, mechanical movement, and much more.”

Toyota contributed grants totaling $1.5 million. These were made possible by the Toyota USA Foundation and Toyota Motor North American. This funding was used for renovations to the accompanying Toyota-funded “Engineers on a Roll” preschool exhibit. The exhibit will be refreshed and renamed STEAM Play, and the forthcoming outdoor environmental education experience STEAM Place.

Toyota Motor North American also announced that they committed $25,000 to a starter seed fund managed by the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. This starter seed will help local non-profits continue to give equitable access to resource STEM education.

STEAM PARK
Image courtesy of Donna Iadipaolo.

STEAM PARK Highlights

Drumm highlighted many of the main features of the STEAM PARK. “The 23 exhibits include a large Window Maze Ball Machine, Airfoil, Propeller Chair, Coding display, and a first-in-the-world digital Roulette Curve exhibit,” Drumm stated. “There is even a floor-to-ceiling, multi-interactive 17th-century clock.”

According to Drumm, a few highlights include:

  • Airfoil: Visitors control the flight of a model bird by changing wind speed and the angle of the airfoils (wings of the bird).
  • Time Switch Cuckoo: Visitors explore and interact with mechanical and electric technologies that span over 500 years.
  • Shape Stress: Visitors choose from a variety of clear plastic shapes to see how each shape responds to stress using a polarizing filter.

The exhibit was designed to appeal to each and every one of us. “The exhibit is geared to the great explorer in all of us,” Drumm explained. “In our very busy lives, we are surrounded by what appears to be engineering miracles each and every day. These marvels often go unnoticed. Tens of thousands of people have dedicated their lives to create engineering solutions designed to improve our lives, ease productivity, or increase efficiency across our societies. There are experiences throughout the exhibit conceived to delight a child, engage an engineer, or awaken one to discover something new.”

The STEAM PARK is for Everyone

He added that different people may enjoy different aspects of the exhibits. “I believe visitors will enjoy the variety of experiences,” Drumm details. “Some of the exhibits are more contemplative while others provide an ‘ah-ha’ moment or encourage you to solve a challenge. In seeing advanced visitors testing the exhibits, I enjoyed watching everyone discover the connections between the engineered world and the natural world, too. As one that enjoys puzzles, I even find myself feeling almost spellbound by an exhibit that may appear simple but needs thinking.”

The most important aspect of the exhibit is to enjoy all aspects of it. “I would like visitors to know that while the experience truly is playful and fun,” Drumm encouraged, “the exhibit gallery draws one to the point that some lose track of time. If someone walks away realizing that everything is engineered, I will have a smile from ear to ear. I wish there would have been such an exhibit when I was younger. I believe visitors will discover that the magic is really engineering.”

A side room at STEAM PARK is dedicated to the accomplishments of women in STEAM. Additionally, this room has a video presentation telling their stories.

Megan Schrauben, Executive Director at the Michigan STEM Council, also spoke at the event. She states that when people engage in play, 50% of what they are learning at the same time is mathematical in nature.

At this time, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is only taking pre-scheduled visits. Be sure to purchase tickets to the STEAM PARK at their website!

220 E. Ann St., Ann ARbor. 734-995-5439. aahom.org