TAMPA — At the Museum of Science and Industry, summertime means algebra, graphs and equations.
Fun, exciting stuff. Really.
A new exhibit offers a peek into the work of roller coaster designers, video game developers and music producers using math and algebra. The 26 interactive stations let visitors adjust slope, plot coordinates and track speed as part of the creative process.
The family-friendly exhibit, titled Design Zone, opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 5. It took over the first-level space previously devoted to Bugging Out and costs $3 per person in addition to regular MOSI admission.
MOSI leased the traveling exhibit from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, which developed the $3.5 million project using a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Tampa is the first stop in its 10-year tour.
Design Zone caters to children ages 10 to 14 with an interest in music, art or engineering. You can catapult balls into targets by calculating the correct angle, match beats like a DJ by adjusting the song speed or pedal the distance in a bike race.
Stations break into three categories: engineering and speed; art, architecture and video game design; and music and sound. Each colorful component has lights and sound; a few require teamwork. There's a dance party laser-light show, a drum machine and a beat box. A station that demonstrates mapping skills works like a huge Etch A Sketch. Another about pixels lets users manipulate photos and e-mail them to friends.
Design Zone's goal is to teach kids about algebra without them even knowing it, said David Redburn, the project leader from Oregon who was in Tampa this week training MOSI staff and giving media tours. His team of 22 people spent 31/2 years designing and building the exhibit around concepts relatable to kids.
Summer was a good time to host Design Zone because children are out of school but still looking for fun things to do to keep their brains occupied, MOSI officials said.
"This is getting kids to think differently," said MOSI spokeswoman Adrienne Drew. "They might not actively know they are learning because they are playing a game."