March 10, 2003

Science Facility Opens Addition

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The Sciencenter of Ithaca celebrated the opening of its new building in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

The ceremony was the brainchild of the center’s Executive Director, Prof. Charlie Trautmann, engineering. Instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting, Trautmann proposed a distinctly unique ceremony. His idea involved forming a “human battery,” in which each person forms a cell by holding an electrode of copper and steel tubing connected by wire.

“Each person generates seven-tenths of a volt, about half of a normal flashlight battery,” Trautmann said.

The fifty participants altogether generated 35 volts, triggering a circuit that melted a wire, officially opening the new addition.

“The Sciencenter is a hands-on museum, and everyone’s supposed to crank gears and turn knobs, so we decided a typical ribbon-cutting ceremony was not us. We wanted to make it a science experiment,” said Melissa Gattine, public relations manager of the Sciencenter.

The opening of the new wing will triple the available exhibition space of the old building, which opened in 1993. The center’s new space can now better accomodate the flow of school groups and visitors, both parents and children, who will enjoy the museum’s offerings. Gattine states that on average, the center sees 52,000 visitors a year.

Many Cornell students regularly work and help out at the Sciencenter. Jeremy Selan ’00 M.S. ’03 programmed a new exhibit located in the new wing. Selan visited the Sciencenter several times before becoming involved with the project and knew of friends that volunteered at the center.

“I took friends to the center on the weekend once. It was fun and they enjoyed it a lot,” Selan recalled.

Selan described his exhibit as a “musical staircase.” As a visitor climbs the staircase, each step produces a different note. Selan programmed a special video camera that detects the motions along the staircase. Each motion is translated into a note. Visitors can then generate their own unique melodies, depending on their steps on the staircase.

“You’re never too old or too young to enjoy the hands-on exhibits,” Gattine said. Her personal favorite is the musical staircase, where she enjoys “creating her own tune.”

Archived article by Michelle Kang