by Lillian Csernica on November 19, 2016
Today I took my son John and his two best friend to the Museum of Technology and Innovation in San Jose, CA. This was John’s big birthday wish. Despite lack of sleep, heavy rain, and my general preference for sparing myself the ordeal of driving over Hwy 17, we arrived only a little while after the museum opened at 10 a.m.
Oh my stars and garters. We did everything there was to do, and some of it twice!
The boys built a catapult for firing a small wooden ball across the model of a river. That particular activity comes with a tool kit and a wall of supplies, which including PVC piping, thin wooden dowels, fat plastic screws, and all the blue or green rubber bands you could possibly need.
Once the catapult was built, the boys carried it over to the river, fired it successfully, and received the “I’m a Mechanical Engineer” magnets awarded to everyone whose device was successful.
The general theme of John’s birthday this year is Superman. With this in mind, the trio of teenage mad scientists built a robot that stood about three feet high. It had colored lights that rotated through the spectrum. It had a shield on the front that spun around, along with two smaller shields, one on the end of each arm. It had infrared sensors and a motion detector. It even had a cape!
Once they’d finished building the robot, the boys recruited a staff member to help them attach the electronic brain. With that in place they could begin programming the robot. This took some trial and error, some experimentation. I am proud to say Team John got the superhero robot working!
Another high point included each of the boys designing a roller coaster. Once complete, the video equivalent of the design played on a large screen. The really great part was the four seat ride car equipped with a low grade version of DBox. Each of the boys’ designs managed to make me want to throw up, so I pronounced them all a success.
The Gift Shop is full of amazing educational toys, science experiments, books, jewelry, and a great space-themed “ugly Christmas sweatshirt.” John chose a gyroscope, which he’s learned to operate quite well.
The Gift Shop included one of those bins of red jasper, moss agate, tiger’s eye, and the usual quartz and agate dyed a hideous blue or pink. I can’t resist rocks, so I was digging through the bin looking for something worthwhile. A young man (in his teens) happened to be interested in the rocks as well. We got to talking about various stones. He kept asking me questions. I know enough to identify many of the more common rocks, along with the more popular semiprecious stones. I also know a fair amount of folklore regarding the properties of stones.
The young man listened in apparent fascination. Every time I apologized for going on and on about a lifetime hobby, he wanted to know even more. We must have been talking for a good fifteen minutes when I finally had to excuse myself to go find out what John and his friends were doing. It’s wonderful to meet someone hungry for knowledge in a subject that also fascinates me.
Tomorrow we have John’s official birthday party with cake, ice cream, and presents. On the anniversary of his actual birth, we plan to see Fantastic Beasts. And then comes Thanksgiving!