Friday, April 20, 2012

PlayWatch: Engineering Imagination Playground

I noticed a younger boy – Charlie, 6 years old – in the beginning stages of an experiment involving an elevated track he had constructed to send balls down. Starting at a stack four blocks high, he first tried to simply get the ball to reach the end. As the ball periodically sped down the track in a straight line, without veering off, Charlie noticed that there were “no obstacles” preventing the ball from reaching its goal.

Not good enough for this young engineer, Charlie then added a jump, long cylindrical shapes, and block with a hole at the bottom for the ball to fall into. Charlie was determined and had several solutions to his own design. He explained to me that cars oftentimes go through tunnels “to avoid obstacles,” and proceeded to make a tunnel for his ball to pass through in a problem spot. Charlie also explained that if the end of the track had a backboard, like in basketball, the ball could bounce back into the hole with more frequency if it were to overshoot. “At least that is one possibility,” he noted.

What started as a simple experiment to harness gravity and momentum evolved into an exercise of engineering and problem solving, and the atmosphere of Imagination Playground invited Charlie to use his great knowledge of real world solutions to problems that mirrored his own construction problems in Imagination Playground here at the Museum.

– John Rossi, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

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