New generation of tinkerers brainstorms at Marbles Kids Museum

A planned exhibit will be all about power grids

hpaytes@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2013 

— A new generation of engineers scrunched up their shirtsleeves and began brainstorming designs for the Marbles Kids Museum’s newest exhibit on Saturday, to be titled “Kid Grid.”

Power and automation technologies developer ABB and Marbles are partnering to complete the exhibit, which will open in spring 2014. Families of ABB employees and museum staff worked together at the event to build possible designs for the exhibit.

“Kid Grid” will be an interactive exhibit that will be designed around a pretend power grid. It aims to teach children about engineering and smart-grid energy systems.

“This partnership is all about kids and inspiring them for the future,” said Pam Hartley, vice president of play experience at Marbles Museum. “To find out what they want the simplest way is to ask them.”

From red Styrofoam windmills to power towers of every hue, event attendees got creative as each tried to build the best electrical system.

In 11-year-old Erin Batten-Hicks’ design, a lake of blue tape fueled a tissue box turbine.

Spinning CDs affixed by purple pipe cleaners circulated energy throughout a power grid in Melissa Souza’s and Anna-Julia V. Rodriguez’s creation.

Emma, Philip and Frank Wissink returned to their Dutch roots to design their power system.

“Wissink, it’s a Dutch name,” Frank Wissink said. “That’s why we made a windmill.”

Mary Flieller, ABB’s vice president of communications, said the company teamed with Marbles because it is “a great opportunity for parents, kids, even teachers, to learn about engineering. The earlier we reach them, the more likely they will say, ‘Wow, I want to do this when I grow up.’”

It also allows for children of ABB employees to learn about what their parents do, she said. About 180 ABB employees and their families registered for the brainstorming event.

Once it is completed, the exhibit will reside in the space overlooking the museum’s main entrance on East Hargett Street by North Square Park, Hartley said.

The museum plans to enclose its outdoor pavilion on the second floor to house the exhibit. It also plans to create another entrance to link the pavilion to the rest of the museum and maximize its square footage, said exhibit manager Chris Alexander.

“We are trying to advertise the fun, the learning, the excitement that goes on inside to people outside,” Alexander said.

“Kid Grid” is the museum’s most ambitious project since “Moneypalooza,” and its first to alter its façade since it opened five years ago, he said.

“We don’t let grass grow under our feet,” Alexander said. “We want to push ourselves.”

“We are the community’s kids museum,” Hartley said. “As they evolve, so do we. We’ve got to keep up with them.”

Paytes: 919-836-4918

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