By Karrie Tatum
As a kid visiting a museum, the best part is always the interactive exhibits. In Baylor’s engineering program, a senior design team created that same sense of excitement.
For the first time, one of the senior design projects is being sponsored by the Mayborn Museum, a children’s museum affiliated with Baylor University.
“The Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor University provides a wide spectrum of learning opportunities to engage visitors of all ages. The exhibits and education programs encourage families to learn together and design their own museum experience. This complex features a natural science and cultural history museum focusing on Central Texas with walk-in dioramas including one on the Waco Mammoth Site. The Mayborn Museum Complex also encompasses a multi-floor science discovery center encouraging hands-on learning for all ages and the Gov. Bill & Vara Daniel Historic Village. The nine wood frame buildings that comprise the village, provide a glimpse into the past, bringing to life a community in the 1890s.”*
The project involves the redesign of one of the Mayborn’s main exhibits, the Energy Room. The exhibit is around fourteen years old and has not been updated since it was introduced. The museum’s goal is to eventually create an entirely new exhibit. However, due to time constraint of a single semester, the senior design team worked on a single aspect of the room.
Senior electrical and computer engineering major, Luke Richard, is one of the co-leads on the team. After beginning the initial project design, it became obvious to him that this was going to be a complex project.
“A lot of these senior design projects are very objective. Companies give other teams materials and tell them what they want. In our case, the Mayborn simply assigned us to build something that kids will love. Basically we started from scratch, especially with our research. One of the hardest parts was designing because we wanted to give kids the ability to enjoy this project, but we still had to put our engineer minds into it and make sure the design was realistic.”
With ten people on the team, Richard decided it would be best to split the team in half and conquer two parts of the project at once. Richard appointed senior mechanical engineering major, Sarah Elliot, as the second team lead.
One team is designing a laminar flow air table with four different air vents where kids will be able to test various air flows using plastic balls. One of the air vents will have a tube that connects the other team’s part of the design, called the collection device, which works similarly to a pinball machine. The collection device will have multiple ways kids can interact with different coefficients of friction and teach them how that effects the speed of the rolling balls.
Elliott explains that the team’s design was made with kids in mind.
“We are really just trying to make this as interactive as possible. On the air table, we want to have a cutout with Plexiglas so that the kids can look inside and see how everything works.”
Although the focus on this project has been on kids at the Mayborn, Elliott says that, overall, this senior design project has been a major learning experience for her and her peers.
“I’m learning so much on this project about all the different things that go into construction like what bearings and screws I need to use and all these details about things that I didn’t even know existed. We are all learning so much more than I expected we would.”
With the semester ending, the team focused on getting the project completed quickly, but also made sure that the children who visit the Mayborn would enjoy their finished project.
“When it’s all said and done, I hope that the kids love it forever. It’s really cool being a part of something that will help other kids get interested in science and engineering, because as a kid that always fascinated me,” said Richard.
With the remainder of the Energy Room needing an update, Elliott is hopeful that the project will be something future senior design teams can continue to work on.
“I really do hope this project continues in the future and that other senior design teams will be able to add to the exhibit with other projects and devices to make it more interactive and up to date.”
*Retrieved from the Mayborn Museum's website.