Discovery Center Launches Space Exhibit with Rocket Ship
The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center opened Discovery Space, a new summer exhibit designed to get children learning about space exploration, on Friday, June 14. The exhibit invites children and caregivers to climb aboard a rocket ship, run a mission control station, catapult planets into space, create a constellation, stomp on projected planets and more, and will be open until August 14.
Visitors can document their visit on a moon landing photo set with custom mural created by Discovery Center educator and local artist Nancy Nelson-Moore. The exhibit is sponsored by Bartlett & West and Security Benefit.
The centerpiece of Discovery Space is a 12-foot-high steel rocket ship with slides for children, created by Washburn Tech’s Fast Track Welding Program. In a unique collaboration, students in Washburn Tech’s Fast Track Welding class designed and built the rocket ship in a hands-on learning project that took three months and approximately 360 hours to complete. The collaboration was led by Kansas Children’s Discovery Center director of STEAM Education Caitlin Luttjohn working alongside Washburn Tech welding instructors Lester Green, John Rossich and Kim Cummings. In addition to Washburn Tech, Haas Metal Engineering, Inc. and Delta Designs, LTD donated materials and labor for the project.
Washburn Tech student Isaiah Burnette served as the student lead on the project, guiding design and construction. Burnette started Washburn Tech’s Fast Track Welding program with no prior welding or mechanical experience, and quickly demonstrated an aptitude for technical and creative projects. He is the program’s first National Technical Honor Society member and was hired by PTMW upon graduation in May. Burnette is also a dad to three young children who are excited to climb aboard the rocket ship their father helped create. The project involved a number of design challenges, including designing a ship that could be broken into pieces to fit into the doors at the Discovery Center, making the ship light enough to handle by students, and making all components safe for children to play with. Washburn Tech’s Fast Track Welding course, which enrolls over 80 students a semester, is designed to get students trained quickly in basic welding and into the job market. About half of the students are in high school. This is the first time the course has collaborated with the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, a nonprofit children’s museum that hosts nearly 90,000 annual visitors for educational play opportunities.
Another exhibit highlight is a Mission Control Station that communicates with children at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Mission Control models the collaboration and communication that has long been a hallmark of successful space exploration.
Community leaders and Discovery Center members were invited to a special opening reception of the exhibit. Discovery Space is the first large-scale exhibit built in-house at the Discovery Center, and represents the work of many community partners.
Join us until August 14 to launch into space!