Ottawa's Museum of Science & Technology was second on our list of museums to visit this year because I suddenly realized that today was the very last day to see the "Wheels, Wings & Waves" LEGO exhibit. Back in October we thought it would be fun to visit this exhibit of air, land and water transportation (Sailboats! Airplanes! Steam trains! A race car!). It's been in the news a bunch as well, so I wanted to revisit the location to help make up my mind on whether moving the museum is a colossal waste of money or a good idea. Not that my opinion will influence the final decision, but I do like having a somewhat informed opinion rather the the one that the local paper is trying to sell to me...
Although this museum is just down the road from our office somehow October turned into January and the exhibit is about to close. Cousin Heather, Auntie Janice, Brendan, Elizabeth and I duly piled into our car and headed out to the museum.
There was so much to see and so little time that the exhibits went by in a bit of a blur. All agreed that this was a place we'd need to come back to again. Heather recently spent time at the Ontario Science Centre and was amazed by how much more interactive (and cheap!) our local museum is in comparison. This museum is very hands on. Elizabeth spent a great deal of time crawling and "walking" around again, but as the exhibits got noisier and busier she decided that it would be safer to be carried.
We started out with the special robotics demonstrations, but unfortunately we were rather disappointed. Autopsy of a Robot ("Explore the inner workings of robots and intelligent machines. Examine how robots think, sense their surroundings, and move. Meet Pixel, the Museum's friendly robot.") could also be described as "Come and look at our ordinary computer on wheels. It can play 80's music! It can drive forwards and backwards! It does not hop." Robots in Your Life was slightly more interesting, but the presentation had a lot in common with a vacuum cleaner sales presentation we saw at Sears several years ago (Why yes, one of the "Robots in Our Life" was a Roomba...) Clearly the museum needs to work on their scripts for this kind of demonstration. It was however neat to see both Roomba and Clockie getting some much deserved time in the spotlight, even if it was a rather dim one.
We wandered through the space station and then made the obligatory visit to the Crazy Kitchen. It's apparently one of the most popular permanent exhibits anywhere in Canada. Elizabeth crawled in with confidence, but nearly lost her balance and found it difficult to crawl in a straight line. You could see her thinking "What's going on?" The other visitors in the kitchen found her very amusing too.
Then we visited the LEGO room, which was fun, if a little too much like an art gallery of LEGO pictures. We were particularly impressed by the car, except Elizabeth who decided she did not want to pose for pictures. The lights were a bit bright and she was quite suspicious of the numerous small boys noisily racing LEGO cars up and down the ramps. We moved on to the trains, where we could have posed for some very entertaining pictures. But it turns out Elizabeth is not amused by trains. They are BIG and SCARY. I think I have bruises from where she gripped my arm. I don't know what she'd make of a moving train, but hopefully we wouldn't be standing right in front of one pretending we are about to be squished. Bringing Janice was quite educational; she's visited this museum numerous times as part of a field trip from the Aviation Museum camp program and could point out interesting details like the Science & Tech museum version of the Manikin Piss in the bridge building model. No, this does not appear in the official notes...
The canoe was much more fun from her perspective, and if it hadn't been for a couple of other children wanting to try it out too she might have spent the rest of the visit playing happily with the rivets and life jackets. Brendan thinks this bodes well for paddling in the summer, but I have visions of her tipping us in an enthusiastic attempt to puddle in the lake.
As technology geeks, we were particularly amused and entertained by the networking exhibit where you pretend to be a network packet and get routed along various fiber optic and copper wires before arriving at your destination. Many network congestion and lost packet jokes ensued, mostly because some of the younger network packets didn't pay attention to the instructions. Elizabeth was amused by the blinky lights, but when we went down the slide into the scary black hole at the end she completely lost it. It didn't help that I built up a giant static charge on the way down. Hopefully the resulting shock hasn't turned her off slides altogether. It was so loud that Heather and Janice heard it from the top of the slide! Ouch!
All in all this is a much louder and busier museum, and slightly overwhelming for the easily stimulated. You'll want to keep a firm grip on your kids as it would be very easy to lose track of them. The museum is very hands-on and there is lots to see though and I expect that Elizabeth will enjoy going here again as she gets a little bit older.