For over two decades the Redwood Science Museum in Eureka has worked closely with Cal Poly Humboldt engineering students to create a cycle of new exhibits for children to discover. This year unveiled a plethora of activities focused on teaching children about simple machinery, tornadoes, and magnetism.
One of the students, Keiran Miller, an environmental resources engineering major explained the science behind his group’s magnet exhibit.
“This is our ferrofluid exhibit,” Miller said. “The way it works is you take a regular neodymium magnet and you can put it up to [the bottles] and it brings up the ferrofluid. Each bottle is a different color but the idea is the same. The ferrofluid has iron filings in it so that’s what draws it to the magnet. And there’s suspension liquid so it can move around inside the bottle.”
Logan Zampa and Stephan Soli were members of the simple machines group and worked to create the pulley mechanism and Archimedes screw.
“It was a lot of hard work but it felt really good to see the finished product,” Soli said. “And to see it in the museum now; to just design and create something that is going in the real world and can hopefully be educational.”
All the university students who participated were enrolled in introduction to design class. A course that is welcomed to all engineering majors. Lonny Grafman, an instructor in the engineering department, at the college was present at the event.
“When students are given a real problem,” Grafman said. “That’s gonna have real impact in their community and in their world, and that the challenges may be a little bit greater than they can think that they can achieve. Every time [they] step up to it.”
It had been 5 years since the department last partnered with the museum and another 15 years since that. This means that many of the students who created these new designs were also the same children who grew up playing with the first ones designed 20 years ago.
“These are the kids that grew up coming to the museum,”said museum executive director Stephanie Carter. “And now they’re creating exhibits for the museum.”