EXPLORING SPACE AND TIME WITH THE TEENS OF THE WEST

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By Kelly Kayne

A group of local teens known as the ‘JBoard’ have helped design and launch the latest, permanent and immersive exhibition at Scienceworks. ‘Beyond Perception: Seeing the unseen’ is a collaboration between teenagers from the inner west and twenty-eight scientists and engineers, to ‘create immersive experiences, underpinned by real world content that reflects the latest scientific and technological developments’ – or as JBoard member Sean from Footscray City put it: ‘learning cool stuff, whilst doing cool stuff’.  

Over two years, thirty seven teens participated as a consultative committee, meeting monthly with Scienceworks to advise on the content and delivery, and help overcome the challenge of competing technologies and information overload.

“Teens are quite specific in how they engage, they are not big children, they are actually young adults and we have made this specifically to how they perceive and interact with the world, ” says Experience Developer David Perkins.

“Together they’ve shared ideas, reviewed design proposals, tested prototype exhibits and critiqued video content – their feedback has informed almost every area of the exhibition.” Walking through the space, you are not quite sure what should be touched, tweaked, stretched or pressed, which is what makes it interesting.

“This is about awe and wonder, we deliberately don’t provide the answers or make things too obvious because otherwise they try to hack it”, says Perkins.

As adults roam around in observation mode, the kids and teens happily lean into the walls, recline on the sofas and grab the consoles.

“We learned in a fun way, and it made it interesting,” Sean says. “I loved the audio stuff but my favourite is the electromagnetic spectrum and how it shows you all the microwaves and radio waves and infrared that you can’t see, but still impacts us and our everyday life.”

It’s a clever design that has something for all ages. Black walls of chalk scrawlings explain the universe’s secrets, glass enclosures house storms of swirling white mist controlled with robotic arms that simulate air flow and turbulence. Pod like lounges send sound vibrations up your spine, triggering audio-visualisations on the walls in a lesson on acoustics and audiology – or to ‘help us see the music we hear’ says Sunshine resident, JBoard member and Footscray City student, Ethan.

And it’s not just about having a one-off engaging experience, CEO of Museums Victoria Lynley Marshall hopes the exhibition will ignite a lifelong interest in STEM, stating “In Australian secondary schools, participation in math and science is steadily declining, while it is predicted that education in these subjects will be crucial for more than 400,000 new jobs for Victorians by 2025”.

JBoard member Tanya Kovacevic believes that “Beyond Perception will make other teenagers, who aren’t so keen in pursuing a career in science, realise that it’s not just working in a labor occasionally lighting something on fire; it can also be about designing exhibitions and teaching others. I’m so happy that we’re finally able to show everyone what we’ve been doing at JBoard, and I hope everyone will enjoy the exhibition as much as we did making it.”

Beyond Perception is a permanent exhibition at Scienceworks. You can find all details on their website. https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks

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