I got an interesting request some time ago from a colleague at KTH, Karin Habermann. She knew I was in southern California and wondered if I would pass by San Francisco at some point. I don't really pass by SF every now and then since I'm in Irvine, south of LA, and SF is almost 700 kilometers away! But it just so happened we went to SF over the recent extended (five days long) "weekend" (memorial day etc.). We met up with my very old friend Christer Garbis and his wife Kicki who came down from Seattle together with their youngest daughter. Christer and I are friends from back in graduate school at Linköping University, but I also know both Christer and Kicki from our days as undergraduate students at Uppsala University (me and Christer lived in the same student corridor!). Christer moved to the US almost 10 years ago and recently (a few years ago) switched from working for Microsoft to Amazon (where he is User Research Manager at Amazon Kindle Digital Products). So what's the connection to KTH? Well, the request from Karin Habermann was for me/us to visit the science museum in SF, Exploratorium, and write a short report about it. Exploratorium is supposed to be a very good hands-on science museum - perhaps one of the best in the world - and the question she wanted me to (attempt to) answer was "why?". There were also a bunch of more specific questions to guide the inquiry into why it's a great museum.
So me, Tessy, Christer, Kicki (Senior Technical Writer) and my my brother (Senior Interaction Designer at Swedbank) who is currently visiting us here in the US + three kids in the 7-10 age range explored Exploratorium together for a full day. I will write a short report about our "findings" and I have also (June 15) added a bunch of photos to this blog post. Here are some of our favourite stations in the museum:
"Pitch switch"; change the pitch of your voice
The magnetic black sand was a big hit with a lot of kids.
The tornado was one of few stations were many kids could work together.
- KTH has been commissioned to do a pre-study about the possibility of developing a science center focusing on energy and sustainability in the city of Västerås (100 kilometers west of Stockholm). The proposed name of the science center is "Kokpunkten" [The boiling point].
- My colleagues Karin Habermann and Teo Enlund are working on the pre-study and they will deliver a report this summer, including possible activities for such a science center/museum, audience and business models.
- They have, as part of this, been in contact with the Klas Fresk who took the initiative for the local Stockholm hands-on science museum Tom Tits Experiment. He endorsed and recommended them to have a look at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
- My "job description" is thus to write up a short analysis (report) and append photo documentation that will illustrate the stuff I write about in the report.
- Karin and I negotiated and we agreed on KTH/the project paying our entrance fees (five adults + three children) as well as doubling that amount so that we could buy lunch and coffee at the museum.
We had a really nice Sunday excursion to the Exploratorium and I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit there if you happen to be in SF - and especially if you're there together with children! It's huge, it's exciting and I have to commend their excellent museum shop (which reminds me of the perhaps almost equally great museum shop at Tekniska Museet [The Technical Museum] in Stockholm).
A professor here at UC Irvine was amazed over the fact that it was possible to cut through the "red tape" (rules, administrators etc.) and come to an agreement without getting into trouble with the funding agency and other "gatekeepers". I hadn't thought about that, but it sure is good that it is sometimes possible to not have to jump through a lot of (administrative) hoops in order to get things accomplished! Had there been too much work to get it to work, I'm not sure we would have followed through. I mean, who has the time and the energy to do a lot of boring admin work in order to get something this small to work out?
Finally I'd like to thank Karin and Teo for the confidence. I will finish the report and send it over to them as soon as I can!
Here are some more stations from the Exploratorium:
Drama queen and drama princelings
Made out of matches
Comment (June 15): I wrote up a five-page report and sent more than 100+ photos to Karin and Teo. They were happy with the results.