KITCHENER — From prosthetic arms and legs to gadgets that can help you feel music, a new exhibit explores how science and technology can improve lives.
Human Plus: Real Lives + Engineering opens its doors at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum on Friday, and hopes to get people thinking about how to create assistive devices that can help people.
“Universal design that is human centred is good design for everybody,” said James Jensen, supervisor of collections and exhibits at Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.
“This exhibit is looking at how technology, both high-tech and low-tech, can be adapted to different circumstances. It’s a story I think we can all relate to.”
The exhibit was created by the New York Hall of Science in partnership with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It features several interactive displays that highlight a variety of engineering feats that push the boundaries of assistive devices and explore the potential of what they can be.
A video game display features a monoski simulator gives patrons a glimpse into what it possibly feels like to ski like a Paralympic athlete. In another display, patrons can try out a wheelchair that can be used to deejay music by turning each wheel to scratch and fade sounds.
Human Plus doesn’t only feature cutting edge tools that can help people, but also gives patrons an opportunity to design assisted devices and think about the ways in which science and technology can improve people’s lives.
Edward Faruzel, executive director of K-W AccessAbility, toured the exhibit recently and was thrilled with what he saw.
“It’s really important to showcase people’s abilities,” he said.
“It goes to show that people with disabilities have to come up with creative ways of doing things.”
K-W AccessAbility is a non-profit resource centre for adults with physical disabilities. Faruzel said this exhibit couldn’t have come at a better time.
“There are so many things going on in the world. People with disabilities sometimes get pushed back, we’re not as vocal as some interest groups,” he said.
“I hope this exhibit is going to give people a reason to start seeing things differently.”
The timing of this exhibit — with features you can touch, pick up and play with — worried Jensen at first.
Would entire displays need to be left out in order to adhere to public health protocols? How can this exhibit happen in a safe way?
“It’s an exhibit about making adjustments and that is what we have had to do, make adjustments,” he explained.
With the blessing of Region of Waterloo Public Health the museum was able to adapt each interactive exhibit to make it as safe as possible.
Displays are spaced out and each one has a cleaning station and hand sanitizer. Ear buds have been removed from audio portions of the exhibit and replaced with speakers.
Behind the scenes, deep fryer baskets are used to soak small parts of the interactive exhibits in disinfectant before they are put back out on display. Tools to create assistive devices from one display and parts of a walking cane from another display are then boxed in plastic bins and put back into the exhibit.
We’re doing everything we can to make it safer. It’s a learning process.” said Philip Ower, co-ordinator of exhibit design. “We know the public has education on their minds but also safety as well.”
Human Plus will be on display at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum from Friday, Sept. 25 to Jan. 3, 2021.
The museum and K-W AccessAbility will work on a series of videos to showcase local people with disabilities to be included as part of the exhibit.
The museum is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Timed tickets are available to purchase in advance.