When it’s 110-plus degrees outside in Phoenix there is a place to hang out that is guaranteed to be cool, both in temperature and activities — the Arizona Science Center. And the cool factor just jumped a few notches with the opening of its newest exhibit. “MathAlive!” shows visitors how math is used in our everyday lives, but in a way that really gets your attention.
The exhibit offers 40 interactive stations in six themed galleries that demonstrate the math concepts behind everything from snowboarding to robotics. Each station has an activity where you are using some type of math to design, compete or just play.
The favorite activity for both kids and adults seemed to be “Style Revolution.” You enter a rotunda where cameras are positioned to take a 360-degree photo you can get by email. The kids — including my two daughters, Mylan and Solvay — got pretty creative posing for their images, with the end result making them look like stars in their own action movie.
One of my favorite exhibits was “Shadow Play” by Kumi Yamashita. It looked like a large frame with numbers in random positions. When you pressed a button, a light from the side illuminated the numbers. As you stepped away, the image of a child’s face appeared from the shadows.
Another area that plays with light is “Tessellations.” It allows you to arrange multi-colored clear plastic shapes in various mosaics on a light table.
The center gallery holds an impressive model of the “Bridge to the Future.” The goal in this area is to make a city more energy efficient. Mylan took a turn at trying to help re-design traffic flow during rush hour by using variables like bike lanes and mass transit. If only you could do that on your office computer before your started your commute home!
Solvay enjoyed the “Game Developer.” The challenge here was to adjust the dimensions of a handcart so that it would follow a path down a mountainside. One wrong adjustment and your handcart went careening off the edge.
After spending the better part of the morning in the “MathAlive!” exhibit, we wandered around the rest of the center. We felt a hurricane in the “Forces of Nature” simulator, walked through a stomach in the “All About Me” Gallery, explored our own supercomputers (our brains!) in “The W.O.N.D.E.R. Center” and even got a little wet playing with the contraptions in the Atrium. All this before lunch!
I highly recommend taking some time this summer to visit the “MathAlive!” exhibit before it continues its tour. (The exhibit ends Sept. 3.) The best part is that your children will be having so much fun immersed in the activities that they won’t even realize they spent some of their summer working with fractions, variables, graphs, angles, ratios and more!