Alien Worlds and Androids is a new exhibit at the Witte Museum‘s Kathleen and Curtis Gunn Gallery. Pop culture icons, including characters from Star Wars, Iron Man, Alien, and Terminator, are the gateway to cutting-edge scientific concepts based on research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Iron Man, for example, is not just a comic book character or an action hero; he is also an example of a cyborg—a machine-enhanced human being.
In addition to cybernetics, the exhibit covers topics like artificial intelligence and the search for life on other planets. It’s a breathtaking array of scientific issues, but it’s all interconnected and presented in a fun way.
Here, my son, F.T., is imagining what it might be like to be a rover landing on Mars.
Looking at Mars on a chart of the solar system is just the beginning. Studying an alloy wheel and imagining how you would design a rover to move around on the surface of Mars: that’s the kind of challenge that gets kids to stop and think. For example, F.T. is still wondering why scientists are looking for signs of life on moons such as Titan and Enceladus; we’ll be following up on that. (Hint: chemical ingredients of life.)
The exhibit includes hands-on activities, such as tables where you can build your own Zoob robot.
And a joystick-controlled robot claw that you can use to stack shapes. F.T. and I both tried it, and it’s harder than it looks.
Perhaps the most mind-blowing part of the exhibit is unique to San Antonio: the meteorites on loan from local collector Philip C. Mani. Some of the meteorites, including chunks of Mars and the Moon, are mounted so you can touch them.
As we were leaving Alien Worlds and Androids, F.T. said, “That was AWESOME.” I know we will be back soon. The exhibit runs through May 27, 2014.
This special exhibit carries a $5 per person ($4 for members) surcharge on top of regular Witte Museum admission, but you can save money by coming on Free Tuesdays (free museum admission from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) or getting a family membership (prices start at $75 per year). Our membership has been a great value because we visit so often. For transportation, you can park in the Brackenridge garage on Avenue B, ride the zoo train, or drop off a B-cycle.
The Witte has planned several events, including Spring Break Adventure Camp, around the themes of space exploration, robots, and aliens. I’ve written elsewhere about the variety of activities and exhibits at the Witte, including the Build It! engineering event earlier this month, last year’s Dinosaurs Unearthed traveling exhibit, and the permanent displays in the South Texas Heritage Center. You might also want to mark your calendars for April 13, 2014 (and all second Sundays through November) for Sunday Jazz at the Witte, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; these kid-friendly concerts are held outdoors in good weather.
The Witte is a fun Spring Break destination; for more tips, check Sarah’s ideas for Spring Break staycations.
What part of Alien Worlds and Androids are you most excited about?[hr]
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