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Newcastle Life Science Centre’s new dimension

Other posts by  |  Steve Smith on Google+ |  May 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
A boy experiments in the Curiosity Zone at the Newcastle Life Science Centre

A young visitor tries out the disco exhibit in The Curiosity Zone at the Newcastle Life Science Centre

4D motion ride at Life Science Centre

Newcastle’s Life Science Centre will launch the North East of England’s only 4D motion ride, along with a collection of new hands-on exhibits entitled The Curiosity Zone on May 26.

The 4D motion ride will use effects such as wind, water spray, smoke and smells as well as moving seats to bring the 3D action on screen to life. The new exhibits come as the result of a £1.2m investment.

The Curiosity Zone is to give all visitors, young or old, permission to play, experiment and discover the joys of thinking like a scientist. Visitors will be able to create chain reactions, compose music, build machines and sculpt magnetic art and ask the kind of questions scientists do – “What happens if . . .?” and “If I put these things together what will it do?” etc.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Life, said: “The motion ride has always been a firm favourite with our visitors.  By adding the 4D element and upgrading to a digital cinema system we’ll now be able to show a much wider range of exciting films and change them more frequently ensuring that this much-loved feature of Life continues to appeal.”

She added: “The Curiosity Zone has been designed to allow visitors to explore and experiment and encourage them, whatever their age, to play.  Scientific discovery comes from trying things out, experimenting, being inquisitive and we hope that ‘The Curiosity Zone’ will give people a flavour of just how exciting and absorbing science can be.”

The Curiosity Zone has been assisted by grants from the Northern Rock Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation. Philippa Charles, Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “Life is committed to enthusing and engaging everyone in hands-on science activities and we’re delighted to support ‘The Curiosity Zone’ which will show that science isn’t just about learning facts, its about having fun, experimenting and testing out ideas.”

Life’s new films

On top of the new additions, Life will be introducing new films in its planetarium and a new live science show in its Science Theatre.  The Centre’s Science Explainers will be delivering fun science demonstrations and, for under 7s, the ‘Young Explorers Zone’ offers an exciting, stimulating and safe environment for little ones to explore science.

Entry to all of the activities at Life is included in the admission price which is: £27.80 for a Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children); £9.95 for adults; £6.95 for children (under 2s free) and £7.95 for concessions.

The Curiosity Zone and the 4D motion ride open to the public on Saturday 26 May.  To find out more including opening times, visit Please note that the The motion ride has a minimum height requirement.  Riders must be at lease 1.2m/4ft.

More about The Curiosity Zone at Life Science Centre

The Curiosity Zone is a collection of exhibits that have no instructions and no defined outcomes, meaning they can be used time and again and each time, visitors will have their own unique experience.

Users will be able to act as scientists and create chain reactions and ask the kinds of questions scientists do in their every-day work, such as what happens, or how dos this work.

Ian Simmons, Science Communications Director at Life, said: “The idea for Curiosity came about when thinking about how to excite people of all ages about science.  These days you can find out limitless information anywhere via your smartphone, so exhibitions that tell you things are increasingly irrelevant.  What places like Life are great at is creating impressions, giving people important experiences, setting them thinking, inspiring and enthusing them, so we set out to create an exhibition that was all about doing that for science.”

He added: “Newcastle is full of great opportunities to look at things but Life excels in giving people hands-on experiences, so we decided to create really absorbing and rewarding hands-on exhibits that encourage people to use their innate behaviours that are the basis of scientific discovery: curiosity, experimentation, comparing and contrasting, testing, discussion, making a fair test and so on.”

Ian continued: “We also looked at the latest research on what makes people become absorbed in hands-on exhibits and use them for longer periods and incorporated that in our plans,” he said. “The result is a diverse and exciting hands-on exhibition, and while some of the exhibits might not look as if they are about science themselves, the behaviors they encourage are the kind of behaviours that are essential in scientific discovery.”

The Curiosity Zone was designed, built and tested by an in-house team at Life over an 18-month period rather than commissioning outside contractors.  This allowed for extensive hands-on testing of each exhibit prototype to ensure it met Life’s criteria of being engaging, engrossing and capable of being used in a variety of ways both individually and as part of a group.  Members of Life’s Science Club (for 7 -13 year olds) were invited to be Curiosity Advisors and regularly visited the centre’s workshop to test the exhibits and offer feedback.

More about the 4D Motion Ride at Life Science Centre

Life’s 4D motion ride is a cinematic experience.  Riders wear 3D glasses and sit in seats that move in time to the action on-screen.   Additional effects such as blasts of air, sprays of water, smells and mist will help create a sense of being at the heart of the action.   The 4D motion ride experience will typically last around 10 minutes.

The first film to be screened is Hover Chase, a high octane adventure during which state of the art hover bikes and their riders are pushed to their limits as they vie for poll position in a race that sees them travelling through tricky terrains and landscapes.

Life appointed Global Immersion, the international immersive experience designer and integrator, to carry out the upgrade which involved installation of a fully digital cinema initiative (DCI) compliant system complete with the latest high performance digital 3D projectors and 4D effect generators.  The upgrade will provide a picture equivalent to that available in modern cinemas.

Ian Dyer, International Commercial Manager at Global Immersion, said: “We were delighted to work with Life to deliver a leading-edge 4D immersive theatre for their visitors. As the 4D experience trend continues globally among premium visitor attractions, Life’s decision to adopt a fully flexible digital 4D theatre will place them well to repeatedly deliver incredible experiences that will have audiences returning time and time again.”

Big Machine – magnetic walls to which users can attach an array of gears, cogs and pulleys to enable users to create their own mechanisms for making a variety of gadgets turn. Designed to encourage an understanding of forces, appreciation of a variety of drive mechanisms, imagination, ingenuity, collaboration, and problem solving.

Outline  – this involves a big sheet of fossiliferous limestone and users are encouraged to trace their own images of the close-packed fossils in it in their own way, deciding which fossils to trace, which details to include, how best to depict them, how they can be measured  and so on. Designed to encourage observation, selection, measurement, data recording, interpretation and accurate drawing.

Spinning Discs ­ – An exhibit featuring three counter-rotating spinning discs set in a table, accompanied by all sorts of objects that can be rolled and spun onto them. Designed to encourage understanding of interacting forces, testing, problem solving, communication and formulating hypotheses.

Rube Goldberg – This exhibit encourages users to create one of those chain reactions beloved of TV adverts, where one object knocks over another, which knocks over another, for as long as you can build a successful chain. Users get a wide array of objects and three tables at different levels to range over to see if they can create the ultimate chain reaction. Designed to encourage ingenuity and creativity, understanding of forces, concentration, collaboration and communication.

Magnets – Three steel columns accompanied by a selection of cables with magnets at each end, allowing the users to create imaginative structures between the columns. Designed to encourage understanding of magnetism and related forces, creativity, imagination, problem solving, communication and collaboration.

Cabinet of Curiosities – A selection of extraordinary, mysterious and startling items, both natural and man-made. Designed to stimulate discussion, investigation, imaginative interpretation and creative thinking.

Marble Run – This has three magnetic walls to which all sorts of different kinds of tracks and tubes can be attached to try and successfully guide a marble from the top of the wall to the bottom without it falling off. Designed to encourage creativity, imagination, problem solving, collaboration, communication and the understanding of how forces work.

Reactable – A digital music-making table where users can create and adjust sound using a set of programmed pucks, each of which has a different function, such as creating a wave form, acting as a filter, making a guitar sound. Users arrange these on the table to create a pleasing musical outcome. Designed to develop an understanding of sound, encourage creativity, curiosity and problem solving, it will also help users understand some of the sound processing in electronic music.


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