Today the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum opens their new STEAM PARK gallery developed in collaboration with Toyota. Yesterday evening they invited me to visit, test out the exhibit, and speak with representatives from AAHOM and Toyota to get all the details to share with you.
I spoke with Mel Drumm, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Jeff Makarewicz, group vice president and Toyota USA Foundation director
What Is STEAM PARK?
STEAM PARK is a gallery with 23 exhibits that highlights Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).
Development on STEAM PARK started in 2016 with an initial grant from Toyota. Jeff Makarewicz shared that the mission of the gallery was for Toyota’s engineers to share what inspired them, and bring that inspiration to a new generation.
Mel Drumm shared that we live in an engineered world and many people think that’s magical. The goal of STEAM PARK is to show what’s behind the curtain, peeling back the layers of the onion to expose the background engineering, science, and math. Throughout the gallery you see this transparency with the mechanics of the exhibit exposed.
While Toyota Engineers can see the application of each exhibit to car design, the signage also links the exhibit to the natural world.
In designing the exhibits, they strove to make them fun whether you are 2, 22, or 62. I know I definitely wanted to stay and play with all of the exhibits. Throughout the Hands-On Museum this is a goal. A good example shared by Mel Drumm was the internet packet balls. He walked by one day and there were preschoolers enjoying sending the balls through and playing with it on that level. Meanwhile, a UM class was standing behind them using the exhibit as a visual teaching tool for how packets travel through the internet.
STEAM PARK Exhibits
As you enter STEAM PARK, the 17th Century Time Switch Clock will draw your eye. It truly combines both engineering and art as a center piece to the exhibit.
I wanted to take time to study the ball maze that has various controls for guests. I wanted to trace the tubes connected to each knob, figure out what it controls, and how to influence each ball.
There are several building challenges – magnetic tiles, bridge building, and truss building out of K’Nex. I loved the stress analysis screen where you can interactively view the stress on a truss sample.
The bottle rocket launcher is always a favorite. But, I was more drawn to the shock absorber demonstration. Push the button to raise the capsules up then watch them drop. The ping pong ball on the shock absorbed side settles quickly while the side without them bounces around like crazy.
I had to take time to play with the Roulette Curve – a digital version of the Spirograph toy I grew up with. They have several gears to create your pattern. You can customize your colors and line thicknesses. Once you’ve created your masterpiece you can email it to yourself.
Your budding programmer or problem solver, can play the coding game and create directions to move along the grid path from the start to the end avoiding any obstacles.
Learn more about flight with the air foil, explore friction by sliding pucks on different surfaces, learn about density, and more.
Take a quiet break in the Women in Science Room adjacent to the gallery. Here there are benches, a video, and signage to learn more about some of the amazing women who were pioneers in their scientific fields.
What is Next?
AAHOM and Toyota are not done. The preschool gallery will become STEAM PLAY and will get a face lift. There will be a new water play section and the popular Engineers on a Roll will remain. I know my daughter was thrilled when her young cousin came to visit and she could experience Engineers on a Roll as a helper.
Visit STEAM Park at AAHOM
The STEAM PARK is a new gallery at AAHOM. It is included as part of your admission to AAHOM.
Hours & Tickets
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is open 10a-5p Tuesday through Sunday. Through August 20th, Fridays are reserved for private pods.
Due to COVID precautions, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum tickets must be reserved in advance. Tickets are $16/ages 2+, free for members, and $3 for EBT card holders.
There is still one private pod reservation slot available at 3:30p on Friday, August 20 (as of 11a on Wednesday, August 18). During private pod reservations, your group of up to 25 may rent the entire museum for $250 ($75 if you hold an EBT card, $200 for members). For 2 hours your group will have exclusive access to the museum.
We strongly recommend purchasing an AAHOM membership instead of visiting just once. To celebrate the opening of STEAM PARK, memberships will be discounted by $20 from August 18-22 thanks to the support of Toyota. This brings the standard Family membership to $60 – less than the cost of a visit by a family of 4.
In addition to unlimited visits to AAHOM, we love using the reciprocal membership benefit. Over the years we have gotten to experience museums across the country (and in Toronto) with our membership.
My daughter was not able to visit with me during the preview and wants to go visit. We will definitely be considering a new membership purchase this weekend.
Getting to AAHOM
The Ann Arbor Hands on Museum is in downtown Ann Arbor, just steps from Kerrytown. Their address is 220 E. Ann St. Parking is available on the streets and in various lots. The museum recommends parking in the public lot at 220 Ashley. I have parked there and on the street at meters.
AAHOM is also conveniently located only 4 blocks from the Ride’s Blake Transit Center. This makes it quite convenient to take the bus to the museum from many areas of town.
All museum staff and volunteers will wear masks. Guests ages 2+ are encouraged to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Please maintain a 6′ distance from people not in your household.
More about STEAM PARK at AAHOM
This press release below has more details from AAHOM and Toyota:
Toyota engineers collaborate on interactive exhibit designed to spark interest in engineering and science
ANN ARBOR, Mich. August 18, 2021 – Imagine discovering the inner workings of a 17th century time switch clock or gazing at a 16-foot-tall ball maze within a beautiful arched window in Ann Arbor’s original firehouse. This two-story gallery with the inner workings of engineering concepts and more awaits exploration this August at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum’s debut of STEAM PARK.
STEAM PARK is a gallery consisting of 23 individual exhibits created in collaboration with Toyota engineers in Ann Arbor. The exhibits are designed for hands-on engagement that reveal through clear plexiglass the mechanical marvels normally hidden from sight. Exhibits explore simple machines, structures, aerodynamics, mechanical movement and more.
“STEAM PARK provides multiple moments of discovery for visitors of all ages, revealing the awe and wonder of science, technology, engineering, and math through arts-inspired hands-on experiences,” said Mel Drumm, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. “Through an immersive and interactive experience, we hope to spark interest and inspire youth to explore the engineered world.”
STEAM PARK was made possible by grants from the Toyota USA Foundation and Toyota Motor North America totaling $1.5 million. For nearly two decades, Toyota’s Research & Development located in Michigan has collaborated on several initiatives with Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, which serves close to 400,000 visitors annually across the state. This long-standing collaboration underscores Toyota’s commitment to the communities it serves while inspiring the next generation towards STEAM.
“As Toyota transitions to a mobility company, we think that the STEAM Park really aligns with our fundamentals,” said Jeff Makarewicz, group vice president and Toyota USA Foundation director. “Through new connected, automated, and electrification technologies, we are trying to solve some of the world’s most critical problems, but we can’t do it alone. We need to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem solvers, and that is what STEAM Park does.”
In addition to opening STEAM PARK, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is working to refresh the popular preschool gallery. Toyota’s funding will support its renovation, which will be called STEAM PLAY, and the creation of new preschool exhibits.
STEAM PARK exhibits include:
- Time Switch Cuckoo Clock: A unique art piece, this exhibit invites exploration and interaction with a range of mechanical and electric technologies that span over 500 years from the first mechanical clocks of the late Middle Ages to the current electronic technologies we depend upon today.
- Roulette Curves: The world’s first of its kind digital logarithmic spiral drawing tool machine. Visitors create beautiful repeating patterns by picking from an array of colored line widths.
- Propeller Chair: Visitors work to hoist themselves in a chair up to the ceiling and slowly propel down to experience the slow decent with gravity.
STEAM PARK is included with regular admission to the Museum. Admission is $16 per person, free for members, and $3 each (for up to 6 people) for those holding EBT cards. Special discount membership packages will be available on opening weekend, and for a special discounted weekend in September. Normal Museum hours are Tuesday through Thursday, and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
About the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Offering more than 250 interactive exhibits, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum attracts nearly 300,000 visitors annually creating moments of discovery that inspire curiosity, exploration and respect for STEM and the natural world. In addition to exhibits and engaging programming, the Museum and our Leslie Science & Nature Center offers award-winning distance learning, nature, and outreach programming for schools and libraries statewide and around the world. The Museum is the founder of the Unity in LearningInitiative, the regional gateway to hands-on discovery, exploration of the natural world, and experiences that take flight. Visit www.aahom.org or call 734.995.5439 for information.
Toyota (NYSE:TM) has been a part of the cultural fabric in North America for more than 60 years, and is committed to advancing sustainable, next-generation mobility through our Toyota and Lexus brands plus our 1,800 dealerships.
Toyota has created a tremendous value chain and directly employs more than 47,000 in North America. The company has contributed world-class design, engineering, and assembly of more than 40 million cars and trucks at our 14 manufacturing plants, 15 including our joint venture in Alabama that begins production in 2021.
The Toyota USA Foundation is a charitable endowment created to support education programs serving kindergarten through 12th-grade students and their teachers in the United States, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).