When you’re building an exhibit for a kids’ museum, there’s a lot of things to keep in mind. It has to be engaging and fun to interact and/or play with, of course. It should help kids learn about its subject, even if it’s simply “here’s what a fire truck looks like”. And it doesn’t hurt if the exhibit’s visually appealing, too.
We’ll let you judge how we did with the exhibit we built for the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum (MMCM) in Saginaw. Called the Tinker Track, it features several different stations for interactive play, all related to cars and car racing.
We recently got to have a (socially-distanced) conversation about Tinker Track with Sam Jones, the president of the MMCM. You can see the video we made about it further down this page or on our YouTube channel. But since there just wasn’t room for a lot of the details, we’re bringing you a transcript of our conversation.
In Part One, you heard about the museum’s belief in educational play and how that shapes its galleries. This week, you’ll hear all about Tinker Track itself and how it fits that mission.
So how did you guys develop the idea for Tinker Track?
When we were looking at adding a new gallery into the museum, we really wanted to do something not only for the birth to 10 kiddos of — that we serve, but specifically those older kids, because we were aging out a little bit and we want those older kids to have something to interact with. While we do have our Car Works gallery, that’s really more about imaginative play with cars. So when we were looking at Tinker Track, we really wanted to focus on the building and engineering aspect of the auto industry.
Could you tell us what all the Tinker Track gallery includes?
Tinker Track is a whole new concept for the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum. It is an obstacle-course-style racetrack, where you can not only use vehicles that are already built and ready to use, but we also have the possibility of you building your own vehicle from scratch. Whether that looks like a scooter, a cart, a car, or a truck, you can use your imagination and make anything you want.
We also have a tire-changing station, and different lighting elements that make [the gallery] really exciting to be in. And you can get a picture on the champions stand, whether you’re first, second, or third place to get around the track.
It really gives kids the opportunity to — and parents themselves, or caregivers — to get hands-on, to build something together, to see it from start to finish, and then get to use it on the obstacle-course-style racetrack.
What kind of response to Tinker Track have you guys seen?
We’ve had a really awesome response to Tinker Track. People seem to really like it. The staff really enjoy seeing what kind of vehicles get built; even if they don’t get completed, we like to speculate on what it was going to be. But we’ve seen a lot of kids and families enjoy building their own vehicles, riding the pre-built vehicles, changing tires on the pit stop wall, and being able to celebrate their successes on the champions stand.
And lastly, how would you describe the experience of working with ZENTX?
From start to finish, working with ZENTX was a pleasure. The engineers, when we had an idea and we would verbalize it, it would be very rough, and they’d come back to us with a really well thought out, detailed plan of how to make our dreams a reality. And that’s really what Tinker Track was all about. We really enjoyed that working relationship and look forward to doing more projects with ZENTX in the future.
To hear the first half of Sam’s interview, check out this article.