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Great Lakes Science Center offers hands-on fun for the family

Published: April 10, 2015 1:26 PM
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Whether you want to learn about chemistry, biology, math, engineering or other sciences, chances are the Great Lakes Science Center has a program for you.

“The Great Lakes Science Center offers a range of exhibits focused on STEM,” said Kirsten Ellenbogen, president and CEO, Great Lakes Science Center. “Our goal at the museum is to make STEM come alive. One of the first things you realize when you come in is there is a lot of programming.”

One exhibit, which is open through May 3, is based on this Discovery Channel series, Mythbusters. “Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition” allows museum guests to test some of the topics brought up on the hit show. Can you really huff and puff and blow a house down? Will running in the rain keep you drier than walking? Can you pull a tablecloth off a fully set table without disturbing a dish? In addition, guests can see a variety of props used in the shows.

One upcoming exhibit is “Beyond Rubik's Cube,” which runs May 30 through Sept. 7.

“We are very excited about this,” said Ellenbogen. “It is created as a celebration and exploration of the Rubik's Cube and its various product inspirations. It is one of the best-selling toys of all time and still popular today.”

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The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Ernő Rubik of Hungary, Ellenbogen said.

“He created it as a demonstration device for a science and engineering class he was teaching,” she said. “He wound up making four copies of it and gave them to trusted colleagues to present at science conventions. Hungary was still behind the Iron Curtain at this time.”

Rubik would never get these four prototypes back, Ellenbogen said. The cubes were so popular the colleagues had sold them.

Some of the highlights expected at this exhibit include a 10-foot tall, 2,367 lb. controllable Giant Cube, the opportunity to use the Haikube to create your personal Haiku, or view a priceless work of Rubik’s Cube art. Guests also will be encouraged to pull apart and put back together the colorful puzzle cubes.

In addition, the Great Lakes Science Center will host a birthday party in honor of Rubik on July 11, Ellenbogen said.

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“This region of Northeast Ohio has a very significant Hungarian population,” she said, adding that several community groups connected with the Hungarian population will be a major part of the celebration.

In all, the Great Lakes Science Center sponsors “a whole range of family programs,” Ellenbogen said.

“Your family can participate in a range of programs, from dissecting, which is popular, to our Sparks programs,” she said. “There are activities for children and for younger kids with their parents. Any time the science center has an exhibit, we have programs and experiments to go along with that.”

Science After Dark

The Great Lakes Science Center recently started hosting programs for guests 21 and older, Ellenbogen said.

“It grew out of something we observed, where we would see adults pull back and just observe while the children interacted with the exhibits,” she said. “Our exhibits are for everyone to explore and learn.”

The evenings generally have a theme, Ellenbogen said. For example, the one planned for July will have an 80s theme to go with the Rubik's Cube exhibit.

The NASA Glenn Visitor Center

The Great Lakes Science Center is the home of the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, where guests can:

  • See the actual 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module
  • Experience a multi-media trip through landmark moments in space history
  • See artifacts from John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission
  • Check out a real moon rock from Apollo 15
  • View actual space-flown suits from Skylab and Apollo, including one issued to Buzz Aldrin.

In addition, museum guests can experiment with air resistance and test a pressurized bottle rocket; learn how to power a space station and plan a space mission, watch a video tour of NASA Glenn's labs and test chambers, and more.

OMNIMAX Theater

Under the sea, through a tornado and in the jungles are just a few of the places the OMNIMAX theater has taken guests since it opened in 1996.

The OMNIMAX screen is 79 feet in diameter and six stories high, Ellenbogen said.
“The film takes up the entire screen,” she said. “You sit in those chairs and you feel you are on the scene.”

Steamship William G. Mather

This seasonal exhibit, open May through October, is a part of the Great lakes Science Center as well, Ellenbogen said. The 618-foot steamship, built in 1925 and used to transport iron pellets, coal and other materials through the Great Lakes, is now a museum. Guests can learn what life onboard a Great Lakes freighter was like, as well as learn more about Great Lakes history.

“It has a long history connected to Cleveland,” Ellenbogen said of the Mather. “It is a terrific example of the early innovations of Great Lakes technology in steamships. We talk about the Mather as the boat that built Cleveland.

The Mather often found itself on the forefront of technical innovations in its 55-year career, Ellenbogen said. For example, it became one of the first of the Great Lakes boats to be outfitted with radar, in 1946.

The Mather also made history during World War II when it lead a convoy of 13 freighters in early 1941 through the upper Great Lakes to Duluth, Minn, Ellenbogen said. The journey, which delivered materials needed by the Allies, set a record for early arrival for a northern port, she added. What makes the record even more impressive is that parts of the Great Lakes were still covered with ice.

The Great Lakes Science Center is at 601 Erieside Ave. in Cleveland. For details, call 216-694-2000 or visit www.greatscience.com online.


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