Thursday, August 11, 2005

Whitaker Center and "Fighter Pilot" IMAX Film

Day 3 of "Kid Weekend" was a trip to the Whitaker Center science museum. This is a hands-on science museum geared for kids, but fun for geeks and adults as well. This has been a family favorite for a while as well. (Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, and McWane Center when we lived near Birmingham, AL.)

The two highpoints, for both me and my kids, are the kinetic sculptures, and the erosion station.

The kinetic sculptures are essentially balls rolling down tracks. Balls are raised to the top by a motor lift, and set into motion. At points on the tracks, the balls are made to take one of two (or more) diverging paths, and eventually will end up at the bottom, for another trip around. But on their way down, they can be held with other balls until a chute fills up, (at which time they're all dumped together to continue), they can strike gongs or chimes, etc. It's great fun to watch, and we'll stand there watching until we've figured out every path a ball can take and seen it completed several times.

The erosion station is a large table/tank that's on a slight incline. Sand largely covers the bottom, and water is slowly poured in at the top. The observer gets to push sand around and watch the effects that the water has on it as it backs up and then overflows. Again, my kids and I have loads of fun trying different things and seeing what happens.

There are plenty of other stations and exhibits as well, with loads of other fun things to do. We spent about 4 hours going through everything, although currently, the middle of the three floors is housing an exhibit of Titanic artifacts that costs extra to see, so we skipped that. (Had it just been Wife and I, we'd have gone, but with just me and kids, I decided to pass.)

We then ended the trip by going to see the IMAX film "Fighter Pilot". I've seen IMAX films that I liked more, but it was still good fun. It was a documentary (and at some points, re-enactment) of a fighter school/training exercise called "Operation Red Flag" held near Las Vegas. Some of the graphics looked a bit too "Hollywood-ish" to be the real thing (and I could easily imagine some of the real screens would have been classified as well), but in all, it was pretty much fun. Kids liked it, too, although they were more eager to tell Mom about the museum.

More good stuff, but by the end of Day 3, I most certainly was ready for a vacation of my own...

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