Date: March break – summer 2017
Partner: Ontario Science Centre
Venue: Hot Zone on Level 6 at the Ontario Science Centre – map
Project Members: Katherine Mallalieu and Taylor Noble
The Hot Zone Rocket Science project has been developed out of visitor research that shows the need to increase scientific literacy amongst Canadians and that Ontario Science Centre (OSC) visitors are interested in space topics. The goal of this project was to effectively communicate rocket science and rocket science new stories to the public through an educational rocket science program and supporting elements such as polling questions, and materials for information screens.
The program has been developed with built-in flexibility for the Host staff running the program to adjust the presentation based their audience. The OSC audience includes pre-school children, school groups, and families. Each of these groups whether big or small has the opportunity for engagement through three different program sub-themes, different news stories, and activities like ethanol rockets, stomp rockets or balloon rockets.
The Hot Zone is a dynamic space in the OSC that acts as a junction between multiple different exhibition spaces and the cafeteria. It is the perfect venue for this program to meet and engage with audiences’, both location wise and purpose wise as it is devoted to presenting current science news stories.
When you think of space or rockets most people think NASA, but we partnered with the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) allowing us to show current rocket science activities happening in Toronto. For example, UTAT has been testing their sounding rocket to bring to competition in June 2017. The UTAT crew generously provided video footage of their rockets and spare rocket parts for this project. We wish them luck during competition.
Back in September 2016, the OSC pitched this project and has since been a major supporter and collaborator in developing program content, as well as being the sole financial contributor. The staff, particularly Sabrina Greupner, were wonderful colleagues and mentors providing us with an unforgettable experience for which we are deeply grateful.
Brainstorming for this project started towards the end of the fall term with weekly production meetings at the OSC beginning January 2017. The Hot Zone program launched for March Break 2017 and will continue to run into the summer when there will be a new Hot Zone program rotation.
The OSC was attended by just over 35,000 visitors during March Break and since then many school groups leading up to the end of the school year. There is minimum one rocket science program run daily, with 14 staff currently trained to deliver this program. Based on the responses to this project from Host staff and observing visitors during the programming it is clear that this is project has been a success in engaging visitors with rocket science. Going forward it would be useful to conduct formal visitor research to understand specifically what elements were engaging, and where there is room for improvement.
We would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to all partners on this project starting with the OSC and all the staff for their support, guidance and cooperation, UTAT for sharing their rockets with us and for showing us a Canadian side of rocket science, and the Master of Museum Studies program, especially Professor Matthew Brower and teaching assistants Rebecca Noone and Hillary Walker Gugan, for all their support as well. This project has been a major highlight of the program.