I visited the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley this past week with my boys and checked out the new Design Quest exhibit, running through Sept. 2. The theme behind Design Quest is that every human innovation – cars, airplanes, suspension bridges, rocket ships – was “invented by someone who was once a kid.” Various stations throughout the room encourage kids to come up with their own invention ideas, build prototypes and then put them to the test.
My boys, particularly the four-and-a-half-year-old, were fascinated by Fly High, where you create flying machines out of paper, pipe cleaners, foam and other materials and then test them in a wind tube. A Cal student volunteer helpfully showed my son how to make little construction paper birds that flew up through the tube and all the way to the ceiling! Even I had to admit that was pretty cool.
Design and Drive is also great for the little ones; they get to customize a LEGO car by selecting from different types of wheels, treads and road surfaces, and see what combinations work best for climbing and speed. Other areas, including Build a Bridge and Automata (creating moving sculptures) looked like fun for slightly older kids
I’m a fan of LHS because it’s small enough to be manageable with two preschoolers, yet big enough that we have plenty to explore. The KidsLab area contains science-related activities especially for the younger ones, and kids can touch and hold friendly exotic animals in the Animal Discovery Room. My personal favorite, though, is the outdoor permanent exhibit Forces That Shape the Bay, purely for the stunning view of the Bay, San Francisco, and even – if you look hard – the Golden Gate Bridge.