||From the safety of her mothers lap, 2-year-old Eva Zielinski stares wide-eyed at Tess the 50-foot female robot who is a featured attraction at the new California Science Center in Exposition Park. When Tess opens her saucer-sized eyes and begins talking, Eva grabs her mother tighter. But her 6-year-old sister Emilia jumps out of her seat to get a closer look.
Tess and Walt, her on-screen cartoon sidekick, explore how Tess body systems and organs work together to stay in balance, a process called homeostasis. When Tess, through virtual reality, gets into a soccer game on screen to demonstrate how her body changes during exercise, a fire alarm sounds and lights start flashing her body is not in balance, her brain is not maintaining homeostasis.
Tess! Tess! yells Walt, when it appears her body systems are out of control. But then Tess is back, soothing everyone as her heart starts beating faster, pumping more blood, which carries much-needed oxygen to the muscles.
When you exercise, everything in your body your heart, brain, lungs and liver all work together to keep your body in balance, she says. In a final dramatic moment, demonstrating the bodys need for sleep, Tess ends the show by stretching out one 30-foot leg and reaching a giant arm 27 feet in the air to turn off the lights.
I loved it, says Emilia after the show. Eva is still transfixed, but her mother was surprised at how much the younger child seemed to take in.
It really captured her attention, Victoria Zielinski says, adding that she sees the new Science Center as a place where kids can have fun and also take home ideas at the end of the day.
Getting kids and adults excited about science is the main point behind the new California Science Center, the $130 million re-invention of the California Museum of Science and Industry which opened to the public in February. While this is significant in its own right, the California Science Center is just the first phase of an ambitious master plan to enhance all of Exposition Park for recreation, culture and education, including a new Science Center School for grades K-5, a Science Education Resource Center and four corner parks that will reflect the themes of the Science Center.
Visitors enter the California Science Center through the outdoor Science Plaza
With its first phase of construction completed, visitors can experience the Science Centers first two exhibition halls the World of Life and the Creative World as well as Science Court, Science Plaza, and the new IMAX 3-D Theater. In the next construction phases, the Science Center will add the World of the Pacific, featuring a 100,000-square-foot aquarium and other exhibits exploring the ocean; and Worlds Beyond, which takes visitors from inside the Earths atmosphere to the edge of the universe. Previews of those two exhibit halls are now on view.
The exhibits which make the most of catchy theatrics and contemporary technology are designed to produce what Ann Muscat, deputy director for exhibits and education, calls the wow factor, in as many different ways as possible. There is the wow from the aesthetic experience of the sculptures in the outdoor Science Plaza and from Hypar, a three-story hanging kinetic sculpture in the Science Court. There is a different wow from the total mind and body experience of riding a high-wire bicycle or the space-docking simulator. Powerful exhibits like Tess and the Body Works show also evoke a wow from visitors because of the drama and the concepts they convey.
All these, Muscat says, are meant to add up to create the ultimate wow. This, she says, is the wow that happens when you say, Hey, I understand something about myself and the world around me that I didnt understand before.
Although geared primarily for elementary school-age children, the Science Center offers experiences for people of all ages teenagers, college students, parents and grandparents and all educational levels.
A few of the 1,578 gold and palladium balls of the Aerial hang beneath a dichroic glass ceiling.
Its target visitors are families seeking a place of substance and learning, such as the zoo, the botanical gardens or other museums. And while its many interactive exhibits are a clever blend of multi-media technology and theatrics that make learning basic science concepts as fun as a ride at Disneyland and as easy to comprehend as a fairy tale, the driving force behind what you see is the educational message, Muscat says.
We want you to have fun riding the high-wire bike, but we also want you to understand the physics concept underlying it, she says.
Really what the science center is all about is deepening your understanding about the world around you and creating bridges from your everyday experience about the world of science and technology.
The California Science Center is the centerpiece of a master plan to transform Exposition Park into a greener, more pedestrian-friendly place, a true park both for the neighborhood and the region. Both the Science Center and the master plan were designed by the Zimmer Gunsel Frasca Partnerships Los Angeles office, who are also the architects of USCs Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Hydro-carbon Institute and the soon-to-be-built Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall, part of USCs planned main entrance on Exposition Boulevard.
And the wow factor at work.
Elements of the Exposition Park master plan include:
Development of the Science Center School, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the USC School of Education, for neighborhood children in grades K-5.
Development of the Science Education Resource Center, a professional development center serving the community as well as students and faculty at USC. Both the school and the resource center will break ground early next year, Muscat says.
Rejuvenation of Exposition Park as a greener, more community-friendly place with playgrounds, soccer fields and tree-lined promenades.
Other amenities planned for the park include upgrading the Los Angeles Swim Stadium, installing better lighting and signs, and planting more trees. Its going to have a tremendous impact on the community. Its created jobs and a better environment for people living and working in the area, Muscat says.
This spring, the community will see completion of the first corner park at Vermont Avenue and Exposition Boulevard, the renovation of the Rose Garden, and a soccer field along Vermont Avenue.
Ultimately, plans call for four neighborhood corner parks, each with a science theme reflecting the four worlds of the science center. The Ver-mont and Exposition corner park echoes the World of Life theme: The park will feature animals etched into picnic benches; playground equipment in the style of a cat, mouse and piece of cheese; and giant turtles and frogs for kids to jump on.
Pathways leading to the park will have the footprints of animals indigenous to California, such as coyote, raccoon, mountain lion and deer. When the children follow the tracks they will come face to face with the animal who made the tracks.
This is not your old Exposition Park, Muscat says. There are going to be a lot of new things besides the Science Center for people at USC and the rest of the community to enjoy.