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SciQuest Revisited

Developed to meet the needs of middle-school (grades 5 to 8) science teachers to better educate their students, SciQuest remains one of Carnegie Science Center’s strongest interactive exhibitions. “That’s about three million
visitors — or 6 million hands, pushing, pulling, turning and experimenting with the exhibits,” says Dennis Bateman, assistant director for Exhibits at Carnegie Science Center, and the project director. “There are certainly favorites, that we would never change, like the Earthquake Café, he says, but then adds that not too long ago SciQuest got a little “boost” with redesigned activities so that loyal visitors who have been there many times will have new experiences. The Grable Foundation, which originally funded SciQuest, supported its renewal.

SciQuest benefits 125,000 students who visit Carnegie Science Center each year in school groups. This is a significant part of the total attendance of 650,000 visitors, which consists mainly of families of all ages. On the Science Center website, the public can get Exhibit Guides prepared by the education staff, which allow teachers, homeschoolers and families to retrieve and print versions of the
classroom teaching guide as needed.

Many middle-school teachers develop classroom activities in relation to a SciQuest visit. For example, students and teachers can design and build structures in class that they bring to the Earthquake Table to see if their architecture is earthquake-proof. Or after discussing heat waves in class, they can use an infrared camera at SciQuest to compare heat waves given off by a can of Coca-Cola in an insulated holder, or when standing alone.

For Dennis Bateman, one satisfaction of SciQuest is seeing how people who do not know each other enjoy working together at an activity. In “Shadow Catcher,” for example, visitors enjoy each other’s shadows as they are “frozen” in a flash of light on a phosphorescent wall—by using the same chemical processes used to make glow-in-the-dark stickers or emergency exit signs. And children and adults alike team up in Volcano! to pump gasses and “lava” up through a 10-foot-high cutaway slice of a volcano to produce a spectacular eruption.

A goal of SciQuest is to allow visitors to experience activities not available in school, at home, or at any other institution. Where else but at Wheel… of…Disaster! could you spin a rotating “pie chart” to see your chances of dying in a natural disaster in the United States in any given year, or your chances of being struck by lighting, or washed away in a flood? At SciQuest, it’s fun to find out.

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