- story by John Dumoulin
Who knows what's going to hook a child's fascination? For my brother, it was combining two powders in chemistry class. For me, it was mixing two words on a piece of paper. In both of our cases, looking back, it set us on courses that we have followed our whole lives.
It's fascinating how fascination does that!
At INFINITY Science Center, we're in the fascination business. Actually, we’re more of a fascination factory, something I was thrilled to be reminded of when we opened our new "Wings over INFINITY" aerospace engineering exhibit last month.
It's a relatively small exhibit in the museum, but already it has become one of our most active. As the guy behind putting it together, I've been trying to understand why this exhibit is so popular and I think I've figured it out.
First, mostly thanks to the Koast Air Modeling Society of Jackson County, the exhibit features some of the most detailed scale model airplanes you'll see anywhere. They hang from the ceiling like a determined swarm of mosquitos! Each plane is so detailed that you can't help but put yourself inside the cockpit. I think that's the first secret of the exhibit's success and the reason scale models are so successful in any exhibit: if something can be built at a small scale, someone must be able to be build it full scale, right?! These planes MUST exist!
As it turns out they do, or did. There’s a B-25 Mitchell and a WWII British Spitfire. The 1:20 space shuttle model took a guy in Waco, TX, ten thousand hours to build under a NASA grant. All of these, including the shuttle, are radio controlled and at least taxied, if not flew.
The second and even more popular part of the exhibit is the Paper Airplane Challenge. It's where you get to design and build your own model airplanes using an unlimited number of pieces of paper. Then you get to test your creations by throwing them off of the museum's second floor balcony. There's a miniature runway to land on in the gallery below or hooped targets overhead. You can even make "pilots" out of wooden ice cream spoons and watch them bail out! The point: YOU can make these.
INFINITY hasn’t cornered the Fascination Market. There are just too many seconds in the day and as many ways to be fascinated as there are people. But as in any museum, here you can actually get those “a ha!” moments again and again ... and again. I see it repeated every day at INFINITY, but judging by the number of paper airplanes that now litter the first floor gallery each day, the new “Wings” exhibit seems to offer more “a ha” frequent flyer miles than any other.