Cecil Powell, 4, giggled with glee this week as he put pieces of felt into a wind tube at the new Tinker Lab at the Powerhouse Science Center and watched them float to the ceiling.
The Tinker Lab opened in July to allow families to experiment without any technical know-how, said Wayne LaBar, executive director of the museum. In the case of the wind tube, visitors made creations of aluminum foil, mesh, plastic balls and other materials to see how they would react to the wind in the tube without formal direction from museum staff.
“The idea was to create an experience where people actually think with their hands and get to experiment with materials, different ways of building things, etc.,” he said. The fun and whimsical lab will also offer new experiments every two weeks to give visitors a reason to come back, he said.
The Tinker Lab is part of a long-term transformation of the Powerhouse to update its exhibits and offer activities for more age groups, LaBar said.
The lab required about $40,000 to $50,000 and took the place of a hodge podge of exhibits. The renovation included new lighting, floors, tables and shelves planned to feature the work of visitors.
Some future experiments in the lab may include building rubber-band helicopters, making LED flashlights and setting up model buildings on a platform that will shake to see how they react to an “earthquake,” LaBar said.
In its next phase of the renewal, the museum will put in exhibits to feature research happening locally, such as mountain bike engineering and the work of Advanced Mobile Propulsion Test, a company that tests rockets near Durango-La Plata County Airport.
The new exhibits will likely be installed in about a year and are meant to reflect the unique advances in science and technology made locally, LaBar said.
“The story of science technology is a very important story and a big part of Durango,” he said.