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Four-story tornado helps kids understand science

Four-story tornado helps kids understand science

CHICAGO (WISH) — Imagine being able to explore and learn all about Earth’s natural phenomena. That’s the goal of Science Storms, an exhibit at The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

This four-story tall twisting column of air takes center stage when visitors walk into the exhibit. It quickly draws a crowd of kids eager to learn what it takes to form a tornado. They’re able to step inside to see and experience how small physical changes can make a big impact.

“Our vortex is an air mist, so it’s a pool of water under the floor. The fans create the updraft, additional fans create the rotational flow. For a vortex you need rotation and an updraft,” said Olivia Castellini, senior exhibit developer.

Dr. Castellini helped develop the exhibit. The idea started by asking a group of scientists how they got into science.

“All of their answers boiled down to they were fascinated by something they saw as a kid and tried to explain it,” Castellini said.

Five years later this idea turned into an interactive reality. Seven natural phenomena are represented, from tornadoes and avalanches to atoms and motion. All to help kids get excited and understand the why behind what they see in nature.

“It’s valuable to get basic chemistry and physics skills with kids and doing that in a very hands-on and interactive way with things they’re familiar with,” Castellini explains.

From the smiles to the excitement you can tell the exhibit has been a huge hit, from kids of all ages.

“So far probably my favorite part is the tornado. Because you can control it. You don’t really get to see them around here all the time and it’s really cool to see something with so much power be controlled,” said 12-year-old Jack Wilson.

While the tornado vortex may be a highlight there are several smaller exhibits providing a hair-raising experience, including a wind tunnel that simulates 80 mph winds.

A shocking sound fills the room to showcase lightning. A Tesla coil builds up a charge and when the charge becomes large enough 1.5 million volts of electricity discharge.

While moving levers or spinning wheels, young visitors’ eyes are focused and mouths wide open in awe. They’re having fun but learning at the same time. Which could help take away some of the fear severe storms may bring.

“Some natural phenomena like tornadoes can be a little intimidating for kids. So an exhibit like Science Storms where you can come in and start to unpack that and understand that it’s really rooted in science and there’s an explanation for how these phenomena work can really start to build their understanding and start to maybe get them away from the emotional response,” Castelllini said.

From a four-story tornado to a bolt of lightning, kids are learning about physics and chemistry all while having fun.

The Science Storms exhibit is celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary in March 2020.