Explore the Science behind Sports at the Family Museum

Doug Finke

How fast is your fastball? Does different equipment affect your performance? Want to practice a perfect bounce pass? These questions and many more are posed in the new traveling exhibit visiting the Family Museum January 22 – May 8, 2011. “Team Up! Explore Science & Sports” is an exciting new hands-on exhibition that will give visitors an in-depth look at the many scientific principles necessary in athletics.

Children, families, and groups alike are invited to check out the fun and fascination that is involved in becoming a winning athlete. Guests will have opportunities to test their own skills in such sports as basketball, football, baseball, tennis, soccer, and even extreme sports like snowboarding. At the same time, guests will be amazed and educated at the level of science that is involved in sports. Geometry, physics, force, and friction will be explained to children in a way that is intriguing and relative to sport.

Exhibit Description

Entry - Guests are greeted by colorful characters and walk under a football goal post as they enter Team Up! Explore Science and Sports. The entry panels are complete with national sponsor signage and a place for each venue to display their local sponsors.

Ricochet Racquet - Adjust the angle of an oversized tennis racquet in an effort to hit the target with tennis balls. Visitors will shoot the tennis balls at the giant racquet, adjusting the angle of the racquet face to get the proper trajectory. Ricochet Racquet is an enclosed component for safety and to eliminate the loss of tennis balls.

Locker Room - Dress like the pros in the Locker Room. This interactive station features equipment and apparel that mirrors the equipment worn by the pros. Not only do guests have the opportunity to "gear-up", but they can also view professional equipment that is safely displayed behind plexi-glass. Four sports are on display; baseball, football, soccer and hockey.

Balancing Acts A balance beam, a pommel horse, and tabletop balancing experiments offer the visitor the opportunity to explore aspects of balance in this exhibit area. Visitors are given a perspective as to just how difficult it is to be an Olympic caliber gymnast.

Bounce Pass - Make that perfect pass just like your favorite point guard! Visitors are challenged to determine the correct amount of force at the proper angle to create just the right bounce to pass a basketball past a barrier to a "teammate" on the other side.

Set Shot - Set Shot tests the patience of the visitor as it asks them to take on a very difficult task. This component teaches about trajectories by asking the visitor to shoot a marble-size basketball through a tiny hoop. This can only be accomplished if the trajectory of the ball is exact.

Sweet Spot - It's going, going, gone! Only if you hit the ball on the sweet spot. Baseball bats have one ideal spot to strike a ball, where the maximum amount of energy will transfer to the ball, and the minimum amount of energy will travel back through the bat into the batter's hands. This exhibit is a hands-on demonstration of this phenomenon. If you strike the ball on the sweet spot, you will feel virtually no vibration. See just how difficult it is to hit a round ball with a round bat.

Inside Scoop - Cross-sections of different balls and other sports equipment reveal the construction methods and materials used in today's high-tech sports equipment. Research and development of such items as hockey sticks and baseball bats is never-ending, but with the Inside Scoop visitors know the importance of staying on top of your game with modern technology.

Get in the Game - Packed with action and YOU as the talent, Get in the Game will immerse visitors in the world of virtual reality! This virtual reality system allows visitors to watch themselves on a TV monitor as they play volleyball, soccer, or ski downhill.

How Fast Was That Pitch? - Visitors can measure the speed of their throw in this radar-equipped pitching booth. This interactive station allows guests to see just what makes those Major League pitchers so special. You think you got what it takes? Test your ability and then you will know just how fast 90 miles per hour is...

The Sole of the Game - Soles of different types of athletic footwear are displayed here. Visitors are challenged to match the sole of the shoe to the sport for which it is used.

Twin Spin - This exhibit features two mannequins that rotate on metal rods. One portrays a gymnast in a tucked position, the other is outstretched. The visitor is asked to predict and observe how the figures spin differently.

Name That Ball - Here visitors are invited to identify balls used in various sports by touch. Some may be simple, but some will keep you guessing for a long time. You may know a tennis ball or a baseball, but there are some intriguing spheres here that will test your sports I.Q.

Sports Figures - How do they do that? A question often asked when discussing today's athletes. In this exciting component, visitors are immersed in the television show, "ESPN Sports Figures" and many of their questions are answered. Sports Figures touches on all sports and details the most difficult scientific principles, while relaying the messages in a manner that even elementary age visitors can comprehend.

Team Up!  Explore Science & Sports was developed by Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, Ill., and the Family Museum of Bettendorf, Iowa, with support from the National Science Foundation. The two museums are partners in the TEAMS II program (Travelling Exhibits at Museums of Science). Team Up! Explore Science & Sports is sure to bring fun, fascination, and fact to everyone who accepts the challenges it poses.