By Bernard A. Wunder, EAA 128167
The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum outside the Navy base at Patuxent River, Maryland held their annual STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) event on March 11, 2023. A requirement for an exhibitor was to have an activity with which the youth attending the event could interact and learn some of the STEAM principles. EAA Chapter 478 members Sid Wood and Bernie Wunder rolled out two of the interactive exhibits for this STEAM event that they had constructed for the museum – a wind tunnel and hot air balloon exhibit.
Several other interactive exhibits have been constructed for the museum. These exhibits were patterned after similar exhibits at the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh. The wind tunnel was made from poster board and can assess the aerodynamic properties of paper airplanes built by the kids.
The hot air balloon exhibit pumps hot air into a plastic bag and, when released, the balloon floats to the ceiling of the museum.
Today’s kids learn online about Chinese balloons floating across the USA. During the STEAM event, one bright youngster thought that taking his paper airplane and “shooting” down the hot air balloon would be a neat trick. It was not long before the air was filled with paper missiles, with one making a direct hit on a hot air balloon.
The other interactive exhibits built for the museum were the Bernoulli box exhibit that can keep four beach balls in the air, demonstrating Bernoulli’s principle; a reaction timer exhibit that measures the time it takes to catch a falling rod, triggered by a random number generator to determine when the drop occurs; and a vertical replenishment helicopter exhibit that drops small plastic balls into holes on outlines of Navy ships, demonstrating hand-eye coordination. The interactive exhibits cost around $500 each. A couple of the exhibits require some adult supervision. For example, the hot air balloon exhibit needs some guidance so that small children don’t put the plastic bag over their head. Others can be left unattended on the museum floor, such as the Bernoulli box and reaction timer exhibits. The exhibits have proven to be very popular with youth and adults alike!