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Time works in funny ways: our parents’ parents probably thought rock and roll was just a fad, and when we were kids, skateboarding was seen as a rebellious activity, something dropouts and burnouts did to annoy the establishment and terrorize public spaces. Flash forward to 2015 and the once outsider sport has spawned professional circuits, achieved public acceptance, and now inspired a new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.
“Rad Science: Skatepark Physics” runs from Sept. 5 through Jan. 3 of next year at the State Museum in downtown Indianapolis and while it focuses on the scientific aspects of skateboarding, it effectively functions as a big playground for littler children, so there’s something for everyone.
Upon walking in we’re greeted with a history of skateboards, from the earliest known incarnations made of scrap wood in the 1950s up to the latest technology in wheels and decks, and even a tongue-in-cheek reference to Michael J. Fox’s hoverboard from 1985’s “Back To The Future 2,” in which the wheel-less version was standard in 2015.
Elsewhere the exhibit focuses on the physics surrounding the art of skateboarding. Through videos and interactive exhibits, museumgoers learn about friction, velocity, gravity, centripetal force, and more, putting a scientific spin on the sport. But little kids who don’t even understand the physics yet can still have fun simply playing with the exhibits, which range from a spinning wheel to side-by-side slides with different surfaces for testing friction, to a miniature trampoline where they can practice mid-jump style moves.
On Sept. 12, the first weekend after the exhibit opens, the museum will host a pop-up skatepark event on its front drive, featuring an instructional session from 9 to 11:30 am, followed by a free skate session until 2 pm. Inquire at for more details.