Adam Kitt, 6, rolls a light-blue play ball through the Loop of Centripetal Force. He may not know it, but he is learning physics.
That’s the motive behind the summer traveling exhibit “Tony Hawk: Rad Science” at Exploration Place. The exhibit aims to illustrate the physics behind skateboarding, said Christina Bluml, director of marketing for Exploration Place. From Saturday to Sept. 1, visitors can participate in hands-on activities, play skateboarding-related video games and watch videos featuring Tony Hawk and other professional skateboarders.
“With hands-on science learning, people can really see it come to life,” Bluml said.
The museum held a soft opening for the exhibit on Monday, Bluml said. While some of the stations were a little complicated for Adam, according to his mother, he had fun interacting with the videos and bouncing on the trampoline at the Momentum Machine, which demonstrates angular momentum.
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“He seems interested,” Amy Kitt said. “He’s trying to figure this stuff out.”
As Adam tries to roll the ball with enough force to complete the loop, he’s practicing the use of centripetal force: overcoming the force of gravity with enough velocity for the ball to go upside down.
Exploration Place has had traveling exhibits since 2006 when it hosted “A T. Rex Named Sue.” Exhibits that deal with popular culture – or dinosaurs – tend to fare well, Bluml said. This year, Exploration Place sought the Tony Hawk exhibit not just for its pop culture spin, but because “in this community, we see lots of skateboarders,” Bluml said.
That’s one element that sets the Tony Hawk exhibit apart: It has community support. Beginning Saturday, members of the Wichita Skateboarding Society – including Landon Barnhart, Scott Fluty and Randy Yang – will greet visitors in the entrance plaza with a variety of skateboarding tricks. The demonstrations will happen every weekend all summer long, said Cory Whitlock, who co-owns Welldone Skate Supply and started the group last year.
“A big part of the science museum is working with the community,” Bluml said. “We want to make the visitor’s experience the best possible, (the Wichita Skateboarding Society’s) organization grows, and people become more active in the community.”
The exhibit is made up of about 25 stations. One has videos of Ollies and kick flips and instructions on how to perform them. Newton’s Pool, designed to look like an empty swimming pool, features skateboarders backsliding across a semicircular corner while explaining that acceleration is dependent on force and mass. Friction Hill asks visitors to evaluate which of three slides makes for the best ride.
“A lot of people learn by doing,” Bluml said. “Skateboarding is such a concrete thing; it makes science tangible and fun, especially the complex concepts of physics.”