The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science's exhibitions have taught visitors many things in the past year. Last summer, for instance, the show "The Mechanicals" revealed how automata are brought to life. "Brain: The Inside Story" showed guests last fall that the brain can repair itself after injury.
This spring, a new exhibition has come to Frost Science, and it is, likewise, as informing as it is entertaining. That is to say, it's pretty engaging. The show, "Design Lab: Engineering," teaches visitors — through variou displays and hands-on activities — about the challenges engineers face in their field.
"The world has a lot of complex technical issues that need to be addressed, and we don’t have enough engineers to help develop solutions," says Trevor Powers, Frost Science's senior vice president of engineering and facilities. "I would like our guests to walk out of 'Design Lab: Engineering' wanting to be an engineer and then taking the next steps to make it happen."
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In the first part of the exhibition, guests encounter old versions of everyday objects and learn how they helped solve society's past challenges. "My favorite vintage object is the Thacher cylindrical slide rule," Powers says. "This device, which was patented in 1881, assisted with calculations only previously possible with a slide rule greater than 59 feet in length. Thacher’s cylindrical slide rule was able to fit on a desk and was used for engineering calculations associated with building bridges."
On top of checking out some of the snazzy devices of yesteryear, visitors can participate in hands-on games. In an area called the Design Lab, guests can learn more about how to best design for different structures. One of the activities, a bobsled challenge, allows visitors to see the forces of gravity and friction in action as they figure out ways to make the most of gravity for various engineering feats.
"[Engineering] takes... an understanding of science and mathematical principles, but it also requires a high level of ingenuity and imagination," Powers says of his wish to demystify the field through the exhibition. "It can be a lot of fun!"
"Design Lab: Engineering." Through spring 2019 at Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-434-9600; frostscience.com. Admission costs $29 for adults and $20 for youth aged 3 to 11; members and children aged 2 and younger get in free, and Miami-Dade residents receive a 15 percent discount with proof of residency.