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May 23, 2013

Indiana State Museum to host out-of-this-world exhibition

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the last weekend in May, and Indianapolis is playing host to the immensely popular, vividly imagined blockbuster exhibition highlighting life in “a galaxy far, far away.”

Beginning Saturday, the Indiana State Museum will host Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. The exhibition explores the Star Wars films, the real science behind them, and the research that may someday lead to real-life versions of the technologies seen in the films. The exhibit also features props and costumes from all six Star Wars films.

“Many people are expecting this to be a science fiction exhibition, but it’s really a science and technology exhibition using the appeal of Star Wars to teach people about science, technology, engineering and math,” Indiana State Museum president and CEO Tom King said. “This exhibition gives visitors an inside look at the Star Wars universe alongside its real world science counterpart.”

Engineering design labs

Star Wars : Where Science Meets Imagination has two main theme areas. “Getting Around” focuses on transportation in the films as well as new and future modes of travel. The “Robots and People” section looks at the relationship between robots and humans on screen and in the real world.

Within each of the two main theme areas of the exhibition, there are Engineering Design Labs where visitors are presented with engineering challenges. For example, in the “Getting Around” theme area, where Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder from Episode IV is on exhibit, visitors are asked: How would you build a maglev car like Luke’s Landspeeder? Videos of real-world speeders and maglev trains in use around the world, coupled with accounts from the engineers who design them, help visitors explore the facets of each technology involved in creating a floating vehicle. Visitors can climb into a real world hovercraft and levitate for a few moments to feel what the next mode of mass transit might be like. Next, visitors can begin to develop a levitating vehicle using magnets and LEGOs supplied in the Design Lab. The EDL process gives exhibit-goers an opportunity to imagine, create and evaluate real-world technologies. In the case of creating a maglev car like the Landspeeder, visitors build a floating speeder then test the vehicles they created by propelling them along a magnetic track.

At the “Robots and People” section, visitors will see displays of Star Wars robots like C-3PO and R2-D2. Robot-enthusiasts can try to make a robot walk, test a robot that balances on two wheels, and even design facial expressions for an emotional robot. They can also explore the link between robotics and medicine. Medical researchers are adapting roboticists’ designs to modern prosthetics. They are seeking new ways to integrate technology into the human body — replacing lost or damaged functions through complex implant systems, tapping signals directly from the brain to control a computer, and melding metal, tissue and bone in the newest prosthetics. Modern prosthetics look much like the interesting medical technologies seen in Star Wars. Alongside Luke and Anakin’s prosthetic hands and a Darth Vader costume, will be real-world robotic legs, and neural and muscular implants that may allow people increased mobility.

Once visitors have had a chance to explore fantasy and real-world robots, they can try building a droid. At the “Robots and People” EDL, the challenge is, How would you design a robot like R2-D2? Activities focus on robot mobility, perception and cognition. Visitors can choose from a variety of wheels and sensors, and by following simple instructions, program their robot to navigate through the droid factory.

Graphics, artifacts and interactive video components will bring visitors up to date on the latest research efforts related to specific technological challenges outlined in each EDL. For each challenge, the components will be designed and grouped to engage visitors to inquire what, how, and why — essential questions to build technological literacy.

The worlds of Star Wars

From harsh deserts to underwater cities and the forest world, visitors can explore some of the unique environments seen in the Star Wars films at freestanding displays integrated throughout the exhibit. Costumes from each of the Star Wars worlds will demonstrate how the environment shaped the look of the Star Wars characters. It will also show visitors how people on Earth, similar to those on-screen, adapt according to their surroundings. Some of the colorful costumes on display include Wookiees from Kashyyyk, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin and Yoda from Coruscant, a snowtrooper from Hoth, and a Jawa from Tatooine.

Experience hyperspace

A full-size replica of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon from Episode IV provides a “jump to lightspeed” experience for small groups of visitors at a time. In a four-and-a-half-minute trip to the edge of the universe, the multimedia presentation explores what it would take to exceed the speed of light and what we’ve learned about our own galaxy. Featuring a proprietary sound system from Bose Corporation, the recreated cockpit presents the technologies of 3Space audio systems, providing visitors with a realistic three-dimensional audio experience.

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination is the largest traveling exhibition in the history of the Indiana State Museum covering more than 9,200 square feet.

Timed-tickets are now on sale for Indiana State Museum members and general admission guests. Tickets are $10 in addition to general admission. Advance ticket reservations are recommended. For more information about the exhibit, special events, online ticket sales and more, visit indianamuseum.org.

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