Engineering class creates exhibits for local children's science museum

December 29, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- How much force does it take to send a ball flying four feet through the air? How does the shape of a sail affect the way a sailboat moves? These are some of the questions children might think about as they interact with exhibits contributed by engineering students at Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania, a local children’s science museum.

The final projects from John Lamancusa’s Design Methodology class are on display at Discovery Space, which opened earlier this year in downtown State College, Pa. This semester, Design Methodology students worked to create new exhibits for the Discovery Space museum aimed at exposing young children to simple engineering principles in a hands-on and engaging way.

To see photos related to students' designs, visit online.

Lamancusa, professor of mechanical engineering, partnered with Discovery Space to provide his junior-level students the experience of designing a product for a real-world client with a specific, targeted audience in mind. The eight exhibits developed by the students include a ball shooter, an earthquake table, a telegraph for sending Morse code messages, and a sailboat showdown—which allows children to attach their own sails to a sailboat and race it down a track.

“The main scientific principle that children will learn through interacting with [the sailboat showdown] is the concept of air flow and how it can be used to power objects,” explains Alex Punzi, a mechanical engineering student on the sailboat showdown team.

The students’ projects will remain as Discovery Space exhibits and some will travel to represent the museum at community locations and events. The ball course exhibit will be on display at a State College Area basketball tournament at the end of this month, and some exhibits may also travel to the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and the children’s department of the Schlow Centre Region Library.

For more information, contact Victoria Fryer at 814-865-0058 or

  • Yanling Wang (right), volunteer coordinator for Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania, and museum visitor Hannah try out the Ball Shooter 3000, a project designed by Penn State students Michael Melnyk, Brett Zimmerman and Chuangyu Zhou that uses a pinball-plunger spring system to shoot balls into targets. Click on the image above for more photos.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated December 20, 2011