Design Quest Gives Kids a Chance to Be Engineers

October 10, 2014
Design Quest exhibit: Wind Works

Verónica Urdaneta

Berkeley, CA, August 19, 2014 ― After being closed September 2–19 for exhibit changes, facility upgrades, and cleaning, the Lawrence Hall of Science invites the Bay Area community to see what’s new when the center reopens on September 20. Attractions will include the Design Quest exhibit, designed and created by the Hall to inspire kids to come up with their own ideas, build prototypes, and test their designs to see how they perform. The exhibit exemplifies what the Hall does best: It promotes interactive learning experiences for families, built from experience and research.

“This place is my heaven!” remarked an 8-year-old boy from a school group when entering Design Quest during its opening run in the summer of 2013. His first question when looking at the design stations was, “What kind of scientists make that? I have to admit this is pretty awesome!” This year, the exhibit returns with two new activities, one in which families build and test their own wind turbines and another in which they create stop-motion stories from their own drawings and posable figures.

Even early learners will get a chance to experiment, using special push cars with changeable wheels. “Playing with cars and ramps is full of physical science concepts,” explained Ellen Blinderman, early childhood education coordinator at the Hall. “Children learn about cause and effect, gravity, motion, and friction, and use problem-solving skills.”

“As UC Berkeley’s public science center, the Hall creates opportunities that inspire young people to embrace science, technology, engineering, and math as part of their future,” said Gretchen Walker, Public Science Center director at the Hall. “In Design Quest, families get a chance to design, build, and test using the same process that real engineers use—and they have a blast doing it.”

Design Quest was developed as part of the Hall’s Ingenuity Program that began five years ago. “Design Quest is the result of the experience and success we had with the Ingenuity Lab and other engineering programs that we offer at the Hall and in the community,” said Monika Mayer, director of Ingenuity Programs at the Hall. “All our Ingenuity programs were created to give families the opportunity to engage in an engineering design process that is very similar to the one used by engineers in the real world.” Design Quest includes a variety of fun engineering design challenges, including:

  • Automata – Create unique moving sculptures with motions determined by a lever system you design.
  • Design and Drive – Combine wheels and treads to optimize LEGO vehicles for climbing or for speed.
  • Stop-Motion Stories – Tell a story with toys, posable figure, and even your own drawings, along with cameras and a computer, then create a short video using stop-motion animation.
  • Make Station – Create a traditional item using nontraditional materials. Discover the many possibilities of a space that is part tinkerer’s workshop and part artist’s studio.
  • Fly High – Create a “flying machine” and test it in vertical tubes of air.
  • Wind Works – Experiment with length, weight, number, and angles of blades on a wind turbine. Then test your design in our simulated wind tunnel to see how much electricity you can generate.

To celebrate the spirit of innovation marked by the 5th anniversary of the Hall’s Ingenuity Programs and the 75th anniversary of Ernest Orlando Lawrence’s Nobel Prize, the Hall invites the community to attend the Lawrence Hall of Science Gala 2014 party on November 1, 2014. Gala guests will get a chance to have fun playing and creating innovative design solutions using science, technology, and engineering.

Design Quest is sponsored by Chevron, the William K. Holt Foundation, and the ScholarShare College Savings plan. Businesses interested in partnering with the Hall to develop future design challenges by volunteering or supporting the program through sponsorship may contact the Hall by emailing The Hall is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and general admission is $10–12. Children under 3, Members, and UC Berkeley students and staff receive free admission.

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