At the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, you don’t just read about the scientific achievements of others–instead, you get to become a scientist yourself. The exhibits are filled with intriguing facts and fun anecdotes (such as how people thought Nikola Tesla had a death ray in his suitcase, but it was actually a lie he used to get a free hotel room) and there are ample opportunities to engage with science, from virtual reality video games to crafting magnetic slime.
I explored the second floor of the Cade Museum, where I found my creativity being put to the test. Several cards challenged guests to doodle an invention based on a prompt such as “invent something that lets you nap in public.” I was quite proud of my “nap pod,” a large sleeping bag creation with curtains you pull over your face. After I drew it, I flipped the card around and saw that there’s already something that lets you nap in public–sunglasses!
That’s one of the key takeaways I learned from the museum: science does not have a single right or wrong answer. It’s an explorative and often unexpected process, and through that process, the world can be viewed from an entirely new perspective.
No area of the Cade Museum is more hands-on than the Creativity Lab, a room full of science experiments. A volunteer guided me through the process of making a flashlight out of copper tape, a popsicle stick, a coin cell battery, a binder clip, and a small LED light. When the battery is pressed, the light at the tip of the popsicle stick actually turns on! I realized that I should stick to being a writer, as I struggled to piece my invention together while the six-year-old next to me created hers effortlessly.
I had more skill with creating magnetic slime, an ooey-gooey process that was quite fun to make. The museum provides all the ingredients, so all I had to do was stir everything together and roll out the slime with my hands. When the slime touches a battery it can actually power an LED light, and when placed next to a magnet, the slime will engulf the entire thing.
I participated in a few more creative activities, such as drawing an optical illusion and turning a bag of random materials into a device that will help a unicorn become fast enough to be a racehorse. (I believe my rocket-powered skateboard was an excellent solution).
The Cade Museum has an old-school printing press as well as multiple 3D printers. Guests can actually design their own pieces to be 3D printed. I found that the Cade Museum excels at highlighting the intersection between science and art. A shelf displayed all of the things people have printed, from an astronaut to the Eiffel Tower.
Walking to the next exhibit, I smiled as employees read a storybook to a group of wide-eyed children. I then found myself face-to-face with a picture of James Robert Cade. Dr. Cade is not only the namesake of the museum, but he was also the lead inventor of Gatorade. The Cade Museum hosts the actual laboratory where Gatorade was invented, moved from the sub-basement of the Medical Sciences Building.
My visit to the Cade Museum ended with an adventure–a trip into a virtual world on a VR headset. I found myself in a Japanese-style room with a beautiful cherry blossom tree. In one video game, I squeezed triggers on hand controllers to pick up and throw various virtual objects. I could literally feel the weight of the items I picked up and feel the friction of throwing a paper airplane. I am so grateful that the Cade Museum let me try out such an amazing piece of technology!
After reading a few more facts about Latimer, Edison, and Tesla at the Age of Electricity exhibit, and of course after browsing the gift shop, my time at the Cade Museum came to a close. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, so I went for a stroll in Depot Park.
As I walked, I reflected on my exciting experience. I believe guests of all ages get the most out of the Cade Museum by having fun, being curious, and embracing their inner child. Don’t be afraid to try all the activities and to get out of your comfort zone. The Cade Museum truly encapsulates the spirit of one of my favorite science teachers–Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. As she famously said, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” After all, that’s what science is all about!