Where do ideas come from? And can other ideas stimulate more ideas? These questions — and some hands-on explorations of creativity — provide a background to the Mayborn Museum’s exhibit “Imaginate,” opening Saturday.
The touring exhibition, created in 2011 by the Ontario Science Centre in Ontario, Canada, looks at the intersection of creativity and science, and how their interaction has led to technological inventions that shape our world.
In the course of its 20 activity stations, visitors can try out their own ideas in flying paper airplanes they’ve designed, building shoes from art supplies, shaping soundscapes, racing wooden blocks down slides with various surfaces, creating facial mosaics from digital photos and videos and more.
The exhibit, adapted from a permanent one at the Ontario Science Centre, aims at showing how curiosity and creativity underlies the scientific process, with ideas leading to experimentation that refines those ideas, then often to new directions and concepts entirely.
That hands-on interaction with creativity drives many contemporary museum shows. “Imaginate” casts a slightly wider net in those who’d find it interesting.
“There’s a really wide age range for this exhibit, from young kids to teenagers — and crafty adults,” said OSC projects manager Mike Chisholm, in town this week with a team to install the touring show.
“Imaginate” groups its activity stations around five themes: dreaming big, questioning, collaboration, repetition and global innovation.
Among the highlights:
• Build-it-yourself mechanical sculptures that move when plugged into power sources.
• Stop-action animation stations.
• Facial mosaics in which participants can add digital eyes, noses and mouths, some moving, to digital pictures of their faces.
• Materials boards that show properties of light-scattering dichroic materials, memory foam, metallic foam, recycled tires and others. A nearby demonstration has a mechanical shoe that crushes grasslike, heat-sensitive fibers that rebound to their original shape when heated.
• A vertical wind tunnel where participants can experiment with paper to determine the best shapes to float on air and fly.
• Detachable wings that visitors can wear to compare their wing-flapping speed with that of birds.
• A raceway where people can race wooden blocks down wood-, aluminum- and Teflon-surfaced slides.
• A touch-sensitive floor panel with images of apples, balloons and soccer balls that move when touched.
• A DIY sound booth where people can build looping soundtracks from rhythm and synthesizer samples, tones and sound effects triggered by illuminated bars. A nearby station uses participants’ heartbeats to drive light patterns up a metal-and-acrylic tower, complete with crackling beats that suggest fireworks.
• A station showing how needs in other parts of the world have led to use of disposable plastic bottles as building material and rollable, stackable water storage containers.
Related summer activities related to the “Imaginate” exhibit include a new series of imaginative flash events that will be announced on the museum’s Facebook page or website the Sunday before the event, said Rebecca Nall, assistant director of exhibits, communications and visitor services. Flash events are scheduled for June 7, 15, 23 and 28 and July 7, 11, 20 and 26.
The museum will renovate some of its discovery rooms this summer, moving some activities and exhibits for small children to other spaces in the museum, she said. There is also a museum membership party planned from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 3.