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History of OMSI's Engineer It!
an OMSI project funded by the National Science Foundation and the Intel Corporation

The intention of Engineer It! was to let everyone, but particularly children, explore engineering in a practical sense and to have opportunities to test, observe, invent and enjoy. With a team of advisors, Dr. Ray Vandiver, OMSI Director of Science and lead developer of the traveling version of Engineer It!, coined the terminology you see on all the Engineer It! exhibits today: "Think, Build, Test, Do It Again."

Many of the activities in the Engineer It! exhibit are built around those exciting activities we did as children.

OMSI's Turbine Hall
OMSI's Turbine Hall which features the permanent version of Engineer It!

Do you remember the thrill of completing your first Lincoln Log House?
Did you ever build lincoln log structures on your bed and then jump up and down!
Hmmm...earthquake tables!

Did you ever build a rubber band paddleboat?
Dr. Jan Dabrowski, former OMSI Director of Science, remembers building rubber band paddleboats at age 9, "I was always trying to get them to go really fast or to throw giant water rooster tails! I recall setting one paddle wheeler on a course across a small pond when a frog hopped onto the deck! My first passenger!"

Can you recall feeling as light as air watching your paper airplane glide through the air or testing wind resistance against your hand reaching out the car window? During the design phase of Engineer It!, staff had the opportunity to add to these childhood experiences as they visited NASA Ames Research Center in California.
"It was amazing! I had read about the facilities but was totally blown away (pun intended!) when I got the opportunity to stand in the giant wind tunnel. A battery of giant propeller blades create winds in excess of 100 mph. The tunnel was big enough to put a full size helicopter in and "fly" it in the tunnel for testing! The inner child in me imagined that the engineers would fly kites in the tunnel on their lunch breaks!"

A diverse group of people worked on development of all the Engineer It! exhibits and tapped into everyone's inner child to dredge up those "inspiring" play activities that proved to be dormant seeds of understanding for later in life. People like Frank Granshaw (an earth science educator who teaches at PSU and Lewis and Clark), Bill Hanshumaker (marine science educator at the Hatfield Marine Science Center), Rick Shannon (a designer for Nike), and Paula Baer (OMSI's Exhibit Evaluator).

Along the way, developers and advisors on the Engineer It! team observed and learned from children and teachers. Rob Larson, a teacher educator at OMSI, co-authored a the book Design Technology. This book was helpful in the development of the learning approach used in Engineer It! Some of the ideas from the book were incorporated into the exhibit. Later, Dr. Marilyn Johnson, OMSI's Director of Science Education, worked with a team of OMSI Educators and OMSI's Educational Web Resource team to develop classroom extensions and a web interface for Engineer It! The team developed numerous classroom (or home) activities capable of being tested in the museum -- in the wind tunnel, in the water tanks, or on the shake tables.

Today the Engineer It! project has come full circle:

Engineer It! began with ideas rooted in the memory of childhood wonder.

The OMSI-based Engineer It! exhibit was designed around laboratory-like play, exploration and experimentation.
funded by the National Science Foundation

The traveling Engineer It! spread the "Think, Build, Test, Do It Again." concept to children and adults around the country.
funded by the National Science Foundation

Children, teachers, and parents experience the wonder of design-based play through classroom and Internet extensions.
generously funded by the Intel Corporation

Intel National Science Foundation