Oct
07
2011

Science Centre 2.0

Geek out at Calgary’s sleek new Telus World of Science, a lab for play and discovery.

A science centre IS more than just a place to push buttons or turn cranks—it’s a place where visitors of all ages can learn, play and discover their inner genius.

Set to open its spiffy new doors on October 29, Calgary’s new $160-million Telus World of Science is far more than the glass edifice you see on the corner of Deerfoot Trail and Memorial Drive.

After almost 44 years, three different names and countless visitors, Calgary’s old science centre closed last June. This month, the new location opens to the public as Canada’s first purpose-built science centre in almost 30 years.

Architects at Dialog designed the 153,000-sq.-ft. facility, and the new exhibits were co-developed with the public who helped test ideas and had a part in fine-tuning them into interactive experiences. The result is five exhibit halls, created to prompt problem solving, experimentation and exploration. Visitors, directed by on-site discovery leaders, can get hands-on with science-based challenges that will change daily, making the science centre feel different each time, even on that second, third or 10th visit.

And just because the building is complete doesn’t mean the innovative and collaborative design process stops. The Prototype Lab on the second floor will continue to test new exhibit elements and workshop activities with visitors and examine what can be improved. Who knows? Maybe one of your bright ideas will become a new fixture someday. (Adult admission, $20; ages 4 to 12, $13; under 3, free)

Mind over matter

Find plenty in Being Human to get your heart pumping. Going beyond anatomy, this human biology exhibit also explores physiology and psychology. You can record video of yourself jumping and see how you move differently compared to your buddy. There’s also a station called the Stress Test—take your sweetie along and see whether his or her stress level spikes upon seeing wedding images. Now, that’s applied science.

From here to infinity

Imagine a point running straight from the earth’s magma heart, through Alberta’s crust and right to the most distant stars. This is the scope of the Earth & Sky exhibit. The hall is dominated by an indoor river that curls through the room, along with erosion tables—landscapes set in the path of the river where visitors can control the flow and experiment with water-based challenges. What’s the best way, for example, to dam a river if you only have sand to work with? You’ll also find other goodies like a create-a-storm station and a Raindrop DJ, where you can transform the sound of dripping water into complex music.

The stargazing simulator

Although it won’t open until 2012, the state-of-the-art Dome Theatre is worth the wait. With Imax capabilities, its planetarium simulator is particularly phenomenal. Not only can it display a view of the night sky from anywhere and anytime on Earth, it can also get up close and personal with distant stars—providing a visual database of virtually everything we know about celestial bodies.

Put your thinking caps on

What Alberta-based science centre could be complete without a nod to the energy sector? From the fundamentals of energy transformation to building your own pipeline, Energy & Innovation focuses on problem solving and bold new ideas. Watch kids design pipelines that overcome obstacles or create wind turbines. You just might be looking at the engineers of the future.

Lifelong learning

The new science centre also offers a raft of educational facilities for school programs. Onsite classrooms are flanked by a nearly floor-to-ceiling pegboard wall on one side and an entirely writeable, whiteboard surface on the other. For older students, there’s a well-stocked chem lab and the Digital Media Studio beneath the Dome Theatre for creating and editing video, videogames and music.

Child’s play

The Creative Kids Museum is a direct legacy of the old science centre. Its new digs include a theatre where children put on their own plays with shadow puppets, a water play area and a climbing area, all designed to be entertaining and educational. Aimed at kids ages eight and under, it’s the perfect place for kids to burn off their extra energy. For mothers with particularly wee ones, there is an onsite nursing room.

Perpetual creativity

While the Creative Kids Museum is for the under-eight set, Open Studio is designed for people aged 14 to 24. This high-tech workshop has been tested by adolescents.You can create anything from fashion and toys, to music and several types of animation here. There’s even a station where you can produce music by “painting” on a canvas with light—how’s that for a mind-bender? Coolest of all, you can keep your electronic creations by emailing them to yourself or leave them behind for someone else to build upon.

WestJet flies to Calgary 80 times daily from 32 Canadian, U.S. and international cities this month.

Related links:

Post-Glory Days: A Look at Vancouver A Year After the Olympics

Halifax with Kids

Saskatchewan Science Centre

Canada's Most Walkable City 2010: Calgary

Ways to be Western: A Guide to the Calgary Stampede

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