"Science Storms" exhibit takes you inside the forces of nature

Every day, with the help of Doppler 16 and other high tech equipment, StormTeam 16 forecasts Michiana's weather, tracking storms.

The science used to calculate the forecast is handled by Chief Meteorologist Mike Hoffman.

You can learn more about the science of storms by taking a trip to Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry has a new exhibit called "Science Storms” that takes you inside Mother Nature's most impressive natural phenomenon.

“Science Storms is organized around an idea we want to look at basic science, chemistry, physics through the lens of large scale forces of nature,” says Chris Wilson of the Museum of Science and Industry.

He has been working on science storms since September of 2007. He created simulations for the forces of nature: the power of the sun, avalanches, tsunamis, lightning, and tornados.

“The most obvious we have from the rotunda is the tornado, a 40 Foot rotating column of air powered by over two hundred horse power worth of fans,” says Wilson. “The two towers on the side are actually turning the air and causing the rotation flow.”

Museum visitors get to control the rotation of a tornado

Other hands-on exhibits, including creating a tsunami wave and creating an avalanche, gets students active with science

Brandy Preston
“I saw the avalanches. It was like quick sand moving. It was very cool, the fact that it moves and you can touch it. It you can touch it and feel it, it is more interesting than reading or hearing about it,” said student Brandy Preston.

In another part of the exhibit, visitors have control over electricity from a sunlight experiment that moves slot cars.

There’s also a replica of Newton’s prisms experiment where you can make your own rainbows, and a heat from sunlight experiment where you can heat up pans of water.

“In an early prototype we were trying to figure out how hot it was and we ignited a fairly thick block of wood almost instantly,” says Wilson.

Safety was also considered when creating one of natures most powerful phenomenon—lightning.

“In the ceiling we have a giant Tesla coil. As we're feeding the Tesla coil 240 volts, and I think 30 amps. What comes out the other end is 1.2 million volts,” says Wilson. “It’s more than twice as far away than that particular coil can strike.”

With safety in mind and over three years of creating the exhibit, the kids young and old get to enjoy science.

“I think they are interested in anything they can touch and do hands on. They want to move the hot air balloon and try and make the tornado a different shape,” says Laura Carey, 4th grade teacher.

“We tried to do as much as we can with this open play to allow people to discover things on their own. Do these experiments on your own with an open end of results. Follow the directions, but the last instruction is to experiment,” says Wilson.

To learn more about the exhibit, and to check museum rates and hours, click here.


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