By Rebecca Bresler, Education Coordinator
Step into Powering the Future to consider what will fuel future vehicle needs! In this new, hands-on Learning Lab, inquiry-based exploration highlights innovative thinking and engages visitors and students around some of the most important questions of our time: What will power the future? How can we meet our current and future energy needs for transportation in a sustainable way? How do we make choices to meet our needs without compromising the needs of future generations?
Arriving at the beginning of the exhibition space, visitors will first enter into Powering the Past where large graphics of the first automotive advertisements and examples of early “horseless carriages” will remind visitors of the myriad ways inventors of the time chose to power vehicles. We hope this space will put our visitors in the shoes of people in the early 1900s as they find answers to the questions: Why were vehicles an important invention of the time? How were these vehicles powered? How were these vehicles different from the cars we drive today?
Following Powering the Past are three Fueling Stations: Fossil Fuels, Biofuels and Electricity/Hydrogen. Each of the three fueling stations offers guests the opportunity to engage with a hands-on lab table, exploring how each of the fuel sources are used to power vehicles; to understand the basics about each of the fuels; to play interactive trivia games; and to learn about the inventors and inventions that have been particularly important to the success of the fuels throughout history.
Travelling up the ramp, visitors will be able to explore the Driving Forces, areas that tell the story of the fuels we use today and the research being done for the vehicles of tomorrow. We discuss why gasoline gained popularity and ultimately became the main source of energy for our transportation needs; how political and economic factors have affected our fuel use; what impacts fuels have had and continue to have on our health and the environment; and which companies, universities, and students are paving the way for new technology to fuel the future.
Interspersed between the Driving Forces are three Investigation Stations showing data-rich information about the fuel sources and highlighting case studies about how the fuels are being employed in our communities. Visitors can also utilize an onscreen app to weigh their choices, comparing different vehicles and different types of fuels.
Finally, as visitors exit the space, we encourage them to continue the conversation in Fuel for Thought, where we ask for feedback about what will fuel the future and why! We hope all our visitors, young and old, enjoy the space and walk away with new knowledge, new memories, and some thoughts about how they might power their own futures.