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Make a Shelter from Chopsticks and Tinfoil at Science Museum Design Lab

By Katie Honan | July 25, 2014 9:35am
 The Design Lab is made up of five spaces that let kids create and build their own pieces of art
Hands-On Experience Exhibited at New NYSCI Spaces
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CORONA — Ever made a shelter out of chopsticks and tinfoil?

Kids and their families will get a chance to make their own city complete with working lights, build shadow puppets and design their own shelters at the New York Hall of Science's new design lab.

The Design Lab opened in June as a way to “put people at the center” of the exhibit, according Peggy Monahan, Exhibits Projects Director.

“People are interacting with materials in a deeper way,” she said, adding that the new exhibit drew upon their involvement with the Maker Faire, which was first held at NYSCI last year.

The space in the middle of the museum, which had previously hosted a rotating list of exhibits, was redesigned by Situ Studio, which constructed five separate interactive labs with their own themes and projects.

In “Happy City,” for example, kids are asked to create something that would make a city a happier place  while also learning about making an LED light switch.

It’s part urban planning and engineering, and Monahan said she’s seen the creations evolve since it first opened.

When they first started, they "got a lot of pizza," she said with a laugh, but since then kids have made everything from a pet hospital to a roller coaster to the Statue of Liberty, all out of cardboard and adorned with a light they made themselves. 

Other design spaces include a place to build shadow puppets, a treehouse that lets visitors create their own shelter out of chopsticks and tinfoil, and a larger pod where participants use dowels and rubber bands to make a range of creations.

What’s made the exhibits so unique is that everything that is built stays in the museum, which can continue to inspire others, Monahan said.

And engagement is up, too.

“The holding power of exhibits is usually measure in terms of seconds,” she said.

Through initial monitoring of the design labs, they’ve noticed the holding power to be up to 35 minutes — a major increase from other exhibits.

Dan Wempa, the museum’s vice president of external affairs, said Design Lab is more “open-ended” and is different from “a standard exhibition that teaches a set of facts or explains some phenomenon.”

“We are providing a space and showing you how to use some tools and materials in interesting ways,” he said.

“From there, visitors can go where their imaginations take them.”

Design Lab at NYSCI, 47-01 111th St., Corona is open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. In the summer, the morning sessions for the lab are usually reserved for camps but there’s always at least one lab open for other visitors, according to Monahan. Afternoon sessions are open for non-camp guests.