This review was originally written for Kids in Museums and was published on 21.2.2016
Following on from the success of 2013’s Bodyworks, Glasgow Science Centre’s newest major exhibition Powering the Future opened in December last year. The show focuses on what is known as the “energy Trilemma,” a vicious circle whereby governments are struggling to find a solution to the demand for power that is cheap, plentiful and at the same time environmentally friendly.
The exhibition opens by questioning the visitor as to how the three needs of the “Trilemma” can be met in the future, with all subsequent content intended to help inform their answer over the course of their visit. As with other Glasgow Science Centre exhibitions, Powering the Future casts its visitor in the role of a scientist for the day, learning through as series of interactive experiments. Children and adults alike learn almost exclusively through their own actions, creating an immersive and engaging experience. As you would expect from its content, it’s a lively affair, with the noise of the exhibits and excited bustle of attendees creating a peculiarly harmonious cacophony.
This excitement is not without just cause however, as Powering the Future offers a number of unique experiences. Proving to be particularly popular is the “hurricane simulator” (a glass chamber that demonstrates the power of wind energy), a tank in which you can operate an AC-ROV (small remote control submarines used to assist drilling in harsh underwater environments), and the chance to launch a small rocket by fuelling it with user-generated hydrogen energy. This is an exhibition designed to appeal to kids and “big kids” alike.
Having said that, the content is a little more complicated than previous exhibitions. As such, there is noticeably more written text here than in other areas of Glasgow Science Centre and some of the topics and terminology may be difficult for particularly young visitors to comprehend. Never the less, our energy future is an important subject that children do need to engage with, and the exhibition does a good job of translating its themes into relatable activities for children. For example, a large “Scalextrix” style racetrack where each user has to generate the power for their car by using crank handles proved particularly popular. As did the “dance mat” style game that required a certain level of prolonged exertion in order to charge up first the music, then accompanying disco lights, and lastly a group “selfie” for all of those involved, rewarding them with a nice take-away memory of their day.
With the exhibition’s focus on fostering an understanding of the scale and effort of meeting the UK energy demand, it is very deliberately designed to leave the visitor exhausted by the end, so expect some weary scientists on the trip home. While we’re on the subject of responsible energy usage though, a trip to Powering the Future is undoubtedly just that.