Best Exhibition for Makers, the Have Fun in Tinkering Special Exhibition!

When it comes to museums, people usually think of realistic animal specimens and detailed information panels, but the Have Fun in Tinkering exhibition at the National Taiwan Science Education Center is a breath of fresh air. At this special exhibition, the mood is one of excitement, as everyone tinkers with their tools and celebrates the success of their experiments.

Just how much fun is it? vMaker had an exclusive interview with Yixuan Lin (林怡萱) from the Cross-domain Curation Team at the National Taiwan Science Education Center, who unveiled the mystery behind the exhibition.

Why is everybody having so much fun at the exhibition? Let’s find out!

Tinkering at the museum? What?!

The Have Fun in Tinkering Exhibition at the National Taiwan Science Education Center originated at the Tinkering Studio at Exploratorium in San Francisco.

The Exploratorium is a typical modern science museum, with an emphasis on the fun of hands-on learning. Nobody is there to teach you science at the Exploratorium—all you do is play.

The Exploratorium’s strongest feature is their ability to develop new products. They even have their own factory that visitors, artists, designers, teachers and scientists can all be a part of. This completely new kind of science museum has opened up new possibilities.

Stop teaching us science. Let’s do it ourselves!

Six creative themes

The exhibition has six main themes: Scribbling Machines, Wind Tubes, Happy City, Marble Machines, Light Play, and Chain Reaction. The exhibition is open plan, with each theme having its own area, so you can move about freely and see what other people are playing at.

The theme titles encourage people to use their imagination, which is why they are so much fun. In Chain Reaction, you work individually or in teams to create various types of mechanisms, which can also be connected with electrical circuits. But these circuits are nothing like the ones you see in textbooks; instead, you have to build them from simple things like aluminium foil.

According to Yixuan Lin, this is a great example of “using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways.”

What everyday materials can you identify among these mechanisms?

Forcing participants to use unconventional materials makes them think. When they have to use metal foil to make circuits instead of wires, they learn for themselves electrical conductivity depends on the nature of the material itself, and that they don’t need wires.

These activities are designed to encourage participants to experience, observe and draw their own conclusions so they’re not afraid to learn new things. Everyday materials are much more familiar than specialist components, and people can relate to them more.

After multiple attempts, some preschool visitors even managed to create complex mechanisms. It’s not about making the best product ever; the important thing is to help children achieve their goals while having fun. When these children go to school, they will no longer feel that implementation, science or STEM are reserved for “smart” people.

Give your child the freedom to do what they want, and they may surprise you.

This is also a place for creativity, but there are many ways to define creativity. According to Lin, it comes from communication, and you become more creative as you communicate more or better with others. You can learn a lot through collaboration and discussion.

Open design to enjoy the process

Have Fun in Tinkering is designed to be as open as possible in order to allow for creative freedom. When you enter this space, you don’t have to count your failures, and nobody is here to grade your work. You can simply use what you already know, learn something new, acquire new skills and go for what you want. That’s what this exhibition is about.

Open design doesn’t mean there are no rules, though. In fact, almost the entire exhibition is centered around the Tinkering Studio philosophy. In order to be successful, each activity needs the following elements:

  1. Action
  2. Facilitation
  3. Environment

Every detail is important if you want to mount an exhibition that provides a great experience.

Taiwanese society used to be very pragmatic: everything had to be “useful,” and nobody had fun developing things. Lin believes that if we learn to enjoy the process of creation, we can vastly increase our creative potential. The US moon landing once seemed like a money pit, but eventually it had a huge positive impact on many aspects of society, including many people’s daily life. The curator of Have Fun in Tinkering wants the various activities to stimulate visitor appreciation for innovation and creation.

Every detail is important. Both the environment and the on-site advice have to be right.

Listening to stories, starting conversations

Feedback has been positive, Lin said, and people even want Have Fun in Tinkering to be a permanent exhibition.

At first, many of the older docents were worried that they weren’t qualified, but now that they have been doing it for some time, they feel that they have become smarter. Those who had prior knowledge from books have found some aspects to be quite different from what they have read. All kinds of people will find this exhibition helpful.

Traditional museums told stories to visitors, but these new exhibitions enable museums to still tell stories while also providing a platform where visitors can share their own. This starts conversations and make museums more accessible.

In the future, Lin also wants to train teachers who can participate, contemplate and understand these new ideas, to help spread the influence even further.

What’s great is that people can come to the museum and share their own stories.

Can’t wait? Sign up!

Want to visit the exhibition? Here’s how to get there. The Have Fun in Tinkering Special Exhibition is a little different from regular exhibitions. It’s experimental and has six lesson plans going on at the same time, so all materials have to be recycled. In order to maintain the quality of creations, you have to sign up first. When you get to the entrance, don’t forget to check in.

Special thanks to Hung-chi Cheng for his assistance.

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