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This Museum Is Housed in an Old Fire Station

Exhibits include hands-on demonstrations of physics principles

2 min read

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Admission: Adults: US $7.50; children 2 to 17/students/seniors: $6

Engineering Judge: Douglas Maly, systems engineer, Allegro MicroSystems Inc., Worcester, Mass.

Junior Jury: Tom, age 10; and Tim, age 3

This Museum is housed in an old fire station, and although the space is sometimes hard to navigate, the judge calls it "charming." The location of the new fire station in the same building also adds excitement for visitors. Exhibits include hands-on demonstrations of physics principles; a discovery room with fossils, crystals, and a 1.2-meter-long dinosaur bone; a hoop you can use to surround yourself with a soap bubble; and a mock TV studio with a green screen for adding fake on-screen backgrounds behind visitors. Our judge says that some exhibits are "effective for young ones because of bright colors, moving parts, and hands-on participation," while others are "effective only for those with a background in high-school physics." Our judge also saw other parents and children interacting together with the exhibits. The members of the junior jury either didn't want to leave or wanted to return for another visit.

Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya

(Catalonia's Science and Technical Museum)

Terrassa (Barcelona), Spain

Admission: Adults: 2.40 euros (about US $3.15); children/students: 1.70 euros ($2.25)

Engineering Judge: Joan Farré i Ferrer, design group leader, Sony España SA, Viladecavalls (Barcelona), Spain

Junior Jury: Juan Miguel, age 17; Raúl, age 16; and Víctor, age 10

"One Can Easily spend the whole day [at this museum] without noticing" time passing, says our judge, who found the museum so large that it was hard to see all of it in one visit. He was particularly impressed by the Faraday cage in the Power exhibit and also appreciated the local Catalán point of view given in the Textile Mill and Transportation exhibits. (In fact, the museum is built in an old textile factory.) The junior judges also enjoyed the Faraday cage and the multimedia content and demonstrations throughout the museum. This museum also offers educational classes during vacations and provides teachers with classroom material so they can best prepare their pupils for a museum visit. The facility includes a library with more than 5000 science and technology publications.

If you know about a museum you think we should feature and want to join our volunteer corps, please send an e-mail to for a reviewer's guide.

About the Author

Janet M. Six is the principal of Lone Star Interaction Design, in Dallas. Her upcoming book focuses on how and why companies should design easier-to-use products.

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