Nearly 700 people explored how to be a dinosuar on opening day of the Mayborn Museum’s interactive exhibit Saturday.
Parents brought their children, and some were surprised at how intimately players could connect with the probable ferocious behavior of dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period more than 65 million years ago.
With joysticks, players find the meaning of the display’s name, “Be the Dinosaur,” as they direct the hunting of the Tyrannosaurus rex or the defenses of the Triceratops with its three horns and mace-like tail.
One false move can mean death for either predator or prey.
Another display shows how the T. rex might also have been a scavenger so it wouldn’t starve after a bashing or goring in a fight with another dinosaur.
Scenarios on the screen change constantly so a player faces a new game with every push of the “start” button.
Other dinosaurs play bit parts in the scenes, but the T. rex and Triceratops are the stars because of their popularity and fighting capabilities.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Amanda Rodriguez of China Spring, attending with her husband, Anthony; daughter, Madelyn, 5; and son, Max, 2. “We were expecting just moving exhibits on screens. But Max is especially delighted by this. Even at his age, he can name dinosaurs. He was fascinated by the first dinosaur picture he saw.”
The opening day of the exhibit coincided with the first of 10 celebrations of the Mayborn Museum’s 10th anniversary, said Rebecca Tucker Nall, assistant director of communications. The exhibit runs through Sept. 3.
In addition to several “Be the Dinosaur” game consoles, a half-size animatronic T. rex stands in the foyer. A “full-size one would have been too scary for the little children,” Nall said.
There is also a scaled-down Triceratops mother with a baby inside the exhibit, hinting at one possible reason for the prey animal’s defensive ferocity.
Matthew Masters, 15, of Gatesville, attending with his father, Jason Masters, gave the interactive game a rating of 9 out of 10.
Jenny Wright of Crawford said her daughter Peyton, 8, said she enjoyed the games.
“My other kids are 5 and 3 and couldn’t understand them too well,” she said.
Many parents sat at the console and operated the controls with young children in their laps.
“We moved here from Houston earlier this year, and the smaller size of museums and other attractions is a relief. The events in Houston are so large it was a fight just to get around,” Wright said.
Other features of the exhibit include a simulated all-terrain vehicle that prowls the Cretaceous forest catching surprise sightings of dinosaurs, and a console that allows players to color dinosaurs at will — because scientists so far can only speculate on their appearance.
Some locally discovered fossils are on display, along with some on loan from the Houston Museum of Natural History.
The museum’s chief paleontological advisor, John Hutchinson, will speak at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 14.
“Be the Dinosaur” was developed by Eureka Exhibits LLC, whose chief executive officer, Mark Kirby, is the son of a NASA scientist.
Kirby explained during the exhibit’s installation that the idea was to explore dinosaurs’ probable behavior more than their appearance.