How to build a flexible science centre

  • Posted on: 18 April 2011
  • By: dave

After having a chat with Chris Lennard who is trying to start a science centre in cambridge I have been doing a lot of thinking about what a science centre should be. And one of the major things is that it should be dynamic, and changing all the time. This means that repeat vistors have a reason to visit repeatedly, it keeps the staff fresh with new toys to play with and if it is reconfigurable enough, you can use a different set of interactives for kids coming around to adults in the evening. Some thoughts on the practicalities:

You want to be able to move all your interactives around the space, so everything should be liftable on a pallet truck and most of it should be lighter than this.


You want threaded holes say every foot in the floor, so you can hold the interactives down, allowing you to build plinths much lighter than you would do otherwise.

You want points in the floor which consist of power points, network points, water and drainage - a drainage ditch encircling the power to protect it from floods which are arranged every 2-3m

You want the roof to have hard points every metre or so - possibly again threaded holes with optional threaded eyes, for stabilising the tops of experiments, hanging interesting things or curtains from etc

As much of the decor as possible should be done with curtains, lighting etc. allowing you to change the mood quickly.

The interactives should be designed with storage in mind so with a relatively small storage room you could store lots of spares and or empty most of the space to use it for a travelling display, or coorporate event etc. Make as many of them as possible on an interchangeable top of plinth system

If the technology gets there soon, the display boards should be giant colour e-ink displays which can be reconfigured for whatever you put next to them, or for artistic effect if you are running a different  event.

- this would involve quite a serious database system behind it, which would allow you to experiment with different types of explanation, correct errors, change the explanation by time of day or age of kids coming around. or even give visitors rfid badges so the system remembered what level of explanation they normally want and gives it to them