Sunday, 4 March 2012

MAGNA Science Adventure

Following on from last week's Ironbridge visit and the Industrial Revolution, I decided to take the kids to the MAGNA Science Adventure Centre.  I got the tip from a co-worker (my boss actually) and it was the perfect day for it.  In other words, it looked nothing like the stock-footage picture above.  We'd been softened up by some nice weather last weekend and throughout the week but cooler temperatures (40F) and a steady rain made for an indoor day.

MAGNA is in Rotherham which is essentially Sheffield and a very easy 45 minute drive to the north.  Sheffield, like other cities in the area, played a key part in the Industrial Revolution particularly when it comes to steel.  Many steel mills (or steel works as they are called here) were in the area.  The MAGNA site was a former steel works that recycled scrap steel back to usable steel.

First, a geeky aside on steel from Wikipedia:

Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, ... and acts as a hardening agent. Varying the amount of alloying elements and the form of their presence in the steel controls qualities such as the hardness, ductility, and tensile strength of the resulting steel.

Here are the kids as we set off inside.  Note, we are inside and we haven't removed our coats (nor would we).  Out of the rain, but not the cold as it was an unheated steel works.

Part of the exhibit was a demo of their arc furnace.  They converted to these in the late 1960's which turned a 12-hr process to 90 minutes.  Each furnace did about 120 tons of steel in that time frame.  In 1977 they set the world record for a weekly output.  The site shut down in 1993 though.  This is the end where the slag comes in and is pre-heated by the furnace waste heat.

Sorry for the blur, it was dark.  The round bit on the right is the arc furnace.  It could tilt 15 degrees backwards to pour off the lighter slag and 45 degrees forward to pour out the good molten steel.

The furnace is no longer working (I imagine it used 1.21 Gigawatts) but they have a little pyrotechnic demo -- always a hit.

we tried to huddle around for a little heat as well

Besides the demo, they have 4 pavilions with different interactive exhibits:  earth, wind (air), fire and water.  this was the Air pavilion.   Alex is turning the crank to cause electrolysis of water to generate the gas to launch the "rocket".  The hands on activities were a big hit.

interested in this one obviously -- steel marbles used to demonstrate the whirlpool/funnel effect

 . . . and an actual funnel cloud -- perhaps a little timely given the recent weather back home.  This was neat in that you could blow (hard) on the funnel to break it up.  Something I learned by accident in my graduate Fluids class . . . not that I remember any of the math associated with it (nor do I need to!)

And now onto to Fire while keeping the funnel them.  A pool of fuel + offset jets + spark = a nice fire funnel.

too cool (glad we saw the wimpy air-only one first)

the kids were interested too

some cool things in the water exhibit too -- this demonstrated how to get a boat uphill through locks

 water cannon -- tough to beat

this one was good for setting expectations as we plan to visit the real Manneken Pis in Brussels over Easter (he's no bigger).  Not sure if we needed to see human water recycling demonstrated though.

We also went to the Earth exhibit but I didn't take any pictures.  They had some big front loaders that Alex enjoyed using.

happy kids (trust me)

We had lunch there as well -- not too bad.  Nicole mentioned that Alex's hamburger was as big as his head --funny.  He actually ate the whole thing too.  Some days he eats, others he doesn't.  Oh well.

All in all, it was a pretty good day.  I would have liked to have seen them tie in the science of steel making a little more closely with the exhibits.  But, the kids had fun and they might have accidently learned something.  There were some similarities to the excellent Indianapolis Children's Museum but it was plenty unique (including fire!).

There was a tour that we took at the end for a little history of the place.  Some good info, but he overran by 30 minutes or so and we were ready to go by then.

We have a return of Nicole's meal of the week. This was chicken chow mein though it didn't have the crunchy noodles.  More of a stir fry with noodles.  Good stuff.

Have a good week.

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