Exploratorium takes 'hands-on' experiments a step further


The new Exploratorium is at Pier 15 on San Francisco's waterfront. The building has been completely renovated and with just over three weeks until opening, the scramble is on to get the exhibits finished.

A lot of that work is happening in the machine shop, but one big change for the new Exploratorium is that in the past the focus was on exhibits made by the staff. However, in the new building there is an entire gallery dedicated to visitors, to give them the chance to make things for themselves.

This is the future home of what's called the "Tinkering Studio." It's a concept the Exploratorium tried out last year at the old building, with a cozy make-it-yourself space, and several huge events where people reconnect with how things work. There's no right or wrong, just tools, supplies, and imagination. It was a huge hit.

"You learn and think differently when you are constructing things," said Karen Wilkinson.

Wilkinson is director of the Tinkering Studio. She and her staff are busy assembling a wild collection of interesting gadgets to get your creative juices flowing. One table they have is full of parts you would find inside things.

"...Inside of toys, inside of kind of school alarms. This one is the doorbell from my house, my old house," said Wilkinson.

Tinkerer Ryan Jenkins showed me some of the crazy contraptions that will be on display for inspiration.

"This is a scribbling machine, which is something we make with kids. Basically, [it has] a motor, a battery and a little piece of glue and when you turn it on, it vibrates around and these markers draw a pattern on a piece of paper," said Jenkins.

The centerpiece of the new gallery is a giant clock, still not quite finished. It's covered with tiny tinkerers working away to get visitors into the maker mood.

We got to check out an electrified bench that uses a tiny computer and your body to make music. If you sit on the bench, put your hands on the armrests and make contact with another person, music will play due to the electricity that can flow through humans.

That's just the tip of the iceberg at the new Exploratorium. About a quarter of the exhibits will be new and your old favorites are being refurbished.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.