Race to Learn: New Racetrack Exhibit at Dayton Boonshoft Uses Cars to Teach Physics
Museum of Discovery in southwest Ohio to open hands-on learning opportunity for car lovers young and old
Children all have one speed setting: fast. Their entertainment is fast, their movement is fast, and their attention is fast. Shouldn’t their education be just as fast? That’s why Dayton’s center for interactive learning is using race cars in its new installation.
A brand-new racetrack exhibit at the Dayton Boonshoft Museum of Discovery embraces your child’s obsession with speed and promises full-throttle fun — while illustrating important STEM principles. Here’s an inside look at the White-Allen Racetrack opening this month.
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Shift your brain into high gear at the Dayton Boonshoft Museum’s new racetrack exhibit
Like the many other exhibits at the Boonshoft Museum, the new White-Allen Racetrack exhibit offers a hands-on learning experience for you and your children. Through scale-model cars and racetracks, the physics principles of friction, gravity, and force become tangible and observable in interactive ways.
You can grab a pre-constructed model car vehicle at the Pit Stop or go to the Pick Your Parts station to customize your vehicle, configuring the body shape and wheel properties to experiment with the effects.
Then, you can race the cars side-by-side in thrilling competitions. The Vroom Derby track, a pre-constructed pinewood derby-style slope, uses electronic wiring to calculate and display your car’s completion time. The Go Zone track resembles the varying drops and curves of a roller coaster, inviting you to customize the track and witness the impact on your model car’s speed.
Racing cars on miniature tracks is so fun that children don’t realize they’re learning about kinetic energy and inclined planes. It doesn’t feel like education; it feels like play — and that’s what the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is all about.
“This exhibition will allow visitors to play with cars while at the same time learning about physics,” explained Jill E. Krieg-Accrocco, Curator of Anthropology and Exhibitions at the Dayton Society of Natural History. “It will undoubtedly be a new favorite at the Boonshoft!”
As a gearhead, I’m a major advocate for using cars as a tool for teaching. There are many simple science experiments you can perform using automotive-themed play as a learning opportunity. When I was young, I used to build and race pinewood derby cars with my father. I learned a lot about aerodynamics, weight distribution, and velocity through those experiences, so I’m thrilled that children in my city will have a similar opportunity at the Boonshoft Museum.
The racetrack, sponsored by the White-Allen dealerships, debuts on Saturday, Jan. 25 in the Main Exhibition Hall and will become a permanent part of the museum’s collection of hands-on activities. For information about visiting the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery with your family, go to its website.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.