Spark the Conversation

5 places to unleash your inner engineer at TELUS Spark

February 17, 2016
Posted By: Kat Dornian, Fluor Champion of Engineering Communication at TELUS Spark

From exploring how things work to building solutions for all kinds of challenges, there are many ways to practice your engineering skills at TELUS Spark.  Engineering solutions to the biggest hurdles facing the world today will take a particular set of skills. The good news is there are ways for kids and adults alike to develop those skills and knowledge here at the science centre . Those well-honed critical thinking and problem-solving skills might lead to a groundbreaking solution or they might simply help in your everyday life.

Here are five places to boost your engineering skills here at the science centre:

1. Creative Maker Tables in the Creative Kids Museum:

Younger visitors, head over to the Creative Kids Museum to get a jumpstart on exploring the world. You’ll find a variety of building materials and tools at the tables in the back corner. Take the time to build something. Doing this develops fine motor skills, spatial reasoning and imagination skills that are the foundation of problem solving and design. You’ll also be working on your visual communication, which helps you to realize your ideas and share them effectively with others. 

Many engineers make models and drawings of their ideas long before they build the real thing. They do this through familiarity with materials, which comes with practice, like what you’re doing in the Creative Kids Museum. 

2. Take It Apart and Play With Circuits in Open Studio:

Be curious and explore the engineering design behind DVD players, stereos, computers and so much more in Open Studio. Many an engineer has spent hours as a child taking apart toys and household devices, and then trying to put them back together.

This exploration helps build a real-world understanding of concepts, like electricity and mechanics. Seeing a gear or pulley in action at the ‘Take It Apart’ exhibit, or exploring the way electricity flows at the ‘Play With Circuits’ exhibit is a great way to build that understanding.

3. Light up the Neighbourhood in Energy & Innovation:

One of the more popular experiences in the Energy & Innovation gallery is Light up the Neighbourhood, where you’re challenged to supply electricity to a neighbourhood of homes. However, the electricity lines aren’t long enough to reach all the houses. You have to be innovative and consider the constraints in order to come up with a solution.

This is a very real-world engineering problem, which many engineers work on (although, on a much larger scale). Engineers often deal with difficult challenges like this that require creative problem solving. This is a great way to start practicing.

4. Build a Pipeline in Energy & Innovation:

Once again, the ‘Build a Pipeline’ experience has you working on a tough, real-world problem. The challenge is to transport materials (ping pong balls) through pipes to get the goods from one location to another. The solutions are endless and there are many variables to explore.

In this activity, you’ll see that there are multiple solutions to any problem. Engineers are always aware of this and must weigh the pros and cons of each of their designs. 

5. The Stream in Earth & Sky:

In the Earth & Sky gallery, a long stream snakes through the space. Many people crowd around it to splash and play, but you can create a challenge for yourself, like trying to protect a “town” from a flood, building a dam to reserve water or whatever captures your imagination. Explore how your decisions change the outcomes, and see what sorts of difficulties arise when working with nature’s elements.

Environment and society are part of everything an engineer designs. Engineers are responsible for thinking about the implications of their designs. As you can see at ‘The Stream’ experience, it’s difficult to work with nature and even more difficult to make choices that benefit people and don’t cause harm to the environment.

You can practice engineering almost anywhere at TELUS Spark. Trying out exhibits that let you explore, observe, build and problem solve are great ways to get started. By practicing these skills in your everyday life, you can innovate solutions to your everyday problems and maybe even become an engineer one day, where you can use your design and innovation skills to shape the future in a positive way.