Robots have long been a staple in pop culture: think housekeeper Rosie in The Jetsons, Star Wars' R2D2 and the sniffle-inducing Wall-E. But a new exhibit at Discovery Center Museum in Rockford proves our robot friends aren't just entertaining, they're also educational.
Robots: The Interactive Exhibition features 15 displays that teach kids and families about the world of robotics. Characters from the 2005 animated film "Robots," including protagonist Rodney Copperbottom and his friends The Rusties, pop up to add some personality,
"We say it helps (visitors) explore the reel and real science of robotics," says marketing manager Ann Marie Walker.
The exhibit takes its "interactive" title seriously. Walker says kids will especially enjoy the hands-on aspects, including the chance to use a robotic probe to explore underwater, in deep space or on the surface of Mars at Robot Explorers; to program a Ford robotic arm like those used in car manufacturing with Industrial Robots; or to complete the construction of a robot at Build-a-Wonderbot.
Another highlight will be the Crosstown Express, a fully interactive "tour" of a robot city that will make you feel like you've landed in an amusement park ride, complete with moving seats.
And keep an eye out for some of those pop culture robot favorites, who make appearances throughout the exhibit.
But Walker is quick to point out that exhibit isn't purely entertaining-it fulfills the museum's mission of combining science with things kids find interesting.
"Right now, there's a push in our country to promote STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," she says. "This exhibit really does that."
She hopes visitors will go away from the museum with a renewed interest in engineering and a curiosity to learn more about what makes robots work.
And maybe someday, to the relief of moms everywhere, one of those visitors to the temporary exhibit finally will figure out how to make a housekeeping robot a reality.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.