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Above and Beyond at Questacon

Amanda Whitley

Weekly visits to Questacon were our routine when my girls were younger.

The annual membership was a godsend for a mum with two under-fives who liked to be busy. But as they grew older, our visits grew scarcer. Perhaps I thought it was a case of ‘been there, done that’—but as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I discovered on a recent visit, the girls (now aged eight and 10) are every bit as fascinated with Questacon today as they were as preschoolers.

Its latest blockbuster exhibition, Above and Beyondhas some real heavyweights behind it. Presented by Boeing—and developed in collaboration with  NASA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum—it’s all about experiencing the wonders of space age technology through five key themes that define flight and space travel: “Up, Faster, Higher, Further, and Smarter”.

From the moment we walked through the doors of the exhibition, the girls were utterly captivated. It was bright and buzzy with so many things to look at that it was hard to know where to start: should we design and test-fly our own supersonic jets, pilot a drone into the eye of a hurricane to measure nature’s fury, spread our wings and experience flight as a bird, or take an elevator ride to the edge of space?

The exhibition is packed with fun interactive challenges, vehicle concept models and prototypes, immersive media presentations, and inspiring stories. I quite honestly enjoyed it (almost) as much as the girls did. Here are our five favourite exhibits and activities.

SPREAD YOUR WINGS

A group flying experience, where motion-sensing technology and computer graphics transform you into a virtual bird. Here you’ll explore the forces of flight—lift, weight, thrust and drag—as you lean to steer, and flap and bend your wings to fly. We had to have several goes at this one!

FULL THROTTLE

jets

This interactive exhibit looks like it belongs in a gaming arcade but there’s education behind it. Users are challenged to apply aerodynamic principles to design their own virtual fighter jets and race against other would-be pilots in a high-speed flying competition. This was a heap of fun and a great educational experience, as the girls learned to make changes to the speed and manoeuvrability of their designs to improve their times.

INTERNATIONAL SPACE ELEVATOR

space-elevator

This is one of those brain-stretching concepts brought to life. Imagine being able to ascend to Earth’s orbit aboard a space elevator! This immersive display includes gorgeous scenery, digital displays and a virtual tour guide describing the aircraft, spacecraft and aerospace phenomena.

MARATHON TO MARS

This Augmented Reality experience invites you to take on the physical and psychological challenges of the marathon journey to Mars, and lets you “try on” some potential solutions. You can even earn your own personal “Passport to Mars.” Super cool.

SPACE JUNK

Step up to a “Junker” station for a cosmic crusade against debris in space. In this virtual timed challenge, you must try to eliminate orbital debris surrounding Earth, using your choice of cutting-edge solutions.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

chopper

There’s also virtual 3-D models of key innovations in flight, sneak peeks at what’s ahead in aircraft and space flight, wind tunnel and hammer strength tests, and the chance to launch your unique Roboflyer design to test your skills at equipping and programming flyers for the missions you choose.

You could honestly spend a good half day in this exhibition alone (leaving you time to explore the rest of Questacon!) If you have kids aged between seven and 14, (or even if you’re *ahem* 44) Above and Beyond is a must-visit.

the essentials

What: Above and Beyond
Where: Questacon
When: Open daily from 9am until 5pm until 23 July 2017
Web: www.questacon.edu.au

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her ‘spare time’, she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She’s done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women.

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