Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Postcard from the Think Tank, Birmingham

We have been frequent visitors to the Think Tank in Birmingham (also called the Brain Centre by our children) since our eldest son was 5 months old. Whilst a number of guests have been left disappointed that some areas are a little thin on the ground (the ‘We Made It’ section on the first floor for example seems to have been left partway through a thought process that could have made it really engaging) we are not amongst them. Our eldest son is particularly keen on science and technology subjects and the Think Tank plays delightfully to this interest. The museum is divided into several sections and carefully set out with plenty of space for all the visitors it attracts.

Just beyond the ticket desk (on the 2nd Floor of the Millennium Point building) you will come across The Street Gallery, home to an interactive recycling display which shows the process for breaking down materials used for everyday products and groceries and making them into new things. The Street also demonstrates other every day processes that happen all around us. Younger members of the family may wish to try their hand at using a digger to scoop up balls whilst older children or adults can see how crimes are solved using clues and data provided in the Forensics Van.

Beyond this gallery is Kids’ City. Designed for small children it boasts a doctors surgery, a cafĂ©, an animation studio (we had lots of fun making videos of ourselves with Shaun the Sheep), a water play area and a mechanics workshop to name but a few.

Also on this floor is a Wildlife area with a Triceratops skull (a big hit with our dinosaur mad middle son) and information on habitats around the world. Although we have yet to try one, you can borrow a wildlife pack from the front desk to make this section of the museum more engaging for all the family.

The Things About Me section is one of the two favourites for our young family. Several displays show you how various sections of your body function, including the heart pumping, your digestive system, your senses and even basic human reproduction. Activities include a bop the crocodile style reflexes game (which I delighted in beating my husband at) and an exercise area (where I realised after some time I was the only member of our family inanely flopping around in an attempt to master star jumps whilst laden with bags, I really should have checked those in to the lockers at Kids’ City).

Just beyond this is the Medicine Matters area with video footage of operations and a dissected human brain which has been donated and is a fascinating organ not often viewed by the general public.

If you venture upstairs the main attraction is the Planetarium, the second of the two favourite areas for our sons, which has shows throughout the day for a small additional fee. Staff are on hand to talk through what each show entails and provide recommendations.

You can also meet the RoboThespian who is very entertaining along with other robotic displays demonstrating some of the innovative manners in which this technology is applied.

Go down one floor from the entrance to the first floor, and you will find the How Things Are Made gallery which is perhaps the most disappointing area. However next to it, and newly opened for 2015, is the Spitfire Gallery. From this section you can view the Spitfire which hangs spectacularly over the ground floor exhibits, and see displays detailing how this magnificent aeroplane was manufactured, and flown by talented pilots.

Birmingham was a key player in the Industrial Revolution with many manufacturing plants being based here, a tradition which continued for decades in the Midlands as a whole. The ground floor brings this to life with two galleries – Move It and Power Up. With the Spitfire now hanging over your head, along with a Hurricane, you can view robots ‘welding’ car parts, explore a steam locomotive and see the Smethwick Engine which would once have been used to pump water through the canal system in Birmingham.

Irritatingly, and much to the frustration of our children, you have to venture back up to the second floor, out past the entrance desk, back down to the ground floor of the main building and outside to get to the Science Garden but it is worth the trek and confusion of little people in tow. A giant hamster wheel, water pressure experiments and a pulley seat (my husband got his own back on that one and easily excelled over my futile attempts to get off the ground) are some of the attractions that await you here.

There have been well over 1 million visitors to the Think Tank since it opened in 2001 and it’s not hard to understand why. A lovely family day out with good facilities and great displays. Yes, perhaps more could be made of some of the attractions, but every time we visit we lose 4 or 5 hours just playing, learning and having fun. We would highly recommend it!

This post represents my own views. I was not compensated for it in any way.

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