GEORGE TOWN, Aug 2 — It’s like something out of a movie: a room full of laser lights and you have to walk to the other end without touching any of the lights.
Then there are the two large dish-shaped apparatus, each standing at opposite sides of the hall: just whispering into one gets the message across clearly to the other side.
In yet another exhibit, there's a maze and ping pong balls with several openings where the balls can be “navigated” just by the opening and closing the flaps on the side of the maze.
These are just part of the 120 interactive exhibits at the newly-opened Penang Tech Dome, a place where science is fun and much more exciting than memorising the periodic table in chemistry class.
The idea of a science discovery centre was mooted by the Penang state government back in 2011 as a way to arrest the decline in the standards of English, Mathematics and Science among students below 15 years of age.
After five years of fundraising, the steering committee finally managed to raise RM27.5 million to turn Komtar's old Geodesic Dome into the Penang Tech Dome.
According to the steering committee chairman, Datuk Wong Siew Hai, the Penang Tech Dome is modelled after the San Jose Tech Centre in California, US where the government provided the building and some seed money while the rest of the funding was raised from corporations and the public.
State-owned development arm, Penang Development Corporation (PDC), sponsored RM4 million and also the free use of the Dome in Komtar while the Penang state government provided seed funding of RM1.15 million.
At the grand opening of the tech dome recently, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng thanked major sponsors including PDC, IJM, Dell, Intel and other corporations and personal donors for their contribution that made the science discovery centre a reality.
"Going forward, the Tech Dome will need further support from the industry, corporate sector and the general public to help ensure its future success," he said while appealing to corporate sponsors to continue pitching in funds for the sake of science and technology.
The Tech Dome occupies two levels with six main galleries and is also the first science centre in the world to exhibit the Digital Autopsy Machine which will only be displayed in London and New York next year.
The first section is the Optics section, where the laser room is located and the science behind the different types of light and its influences on human perception is explained through very simple interactive devices.
From there, you move on to the Forces and Motion section where gravity, momentum, kinetics and dynamics are again explained through interactive experiences including the G-Drop a gigantic slide where you get hoisted up and then slide down.
Then there is the Robotics section where visitors get to fully understand what makes a robot and how it functions. There are even robotic arms to control for a full interactive experience of how robots work.
Naturally, there is an Information Technology section to explain the nuts and bolts behind modern technology and how modern-day devices and appliances are created. This is where the making of tablets and smartphones are explained and demonstrated.
Up on the second level, there is a Life Tech section where the digital autopsy machine is being displayed and other than that, it also has various sections on other diagnostic systems, nutrients, and the science behind keeping people healthy through technology.
On the same level is the Electromagnetism section where topics like electricity and magnetism are demonstrated through mini-interactive experiences so that visitors can experience magnetic fields and the flow of electrons on their own.
Finally, there is a Children's Exploration Zone for younger children who may not be able to grasp some of the more sophisticated exhibits. There will also be an observatory slotted to open only at the end of the year.
Other than the permanent exhibits, the Penang Tech Dome will have a line-up of events and Science, Technology, English and Maths (STEM) programmes almost every month.
In August, an Education Toys Demo together with FisherTechnik, Grow Kid and Science Explorer will be held along with a celebration of the Perseid Meteor Shower by the Astronomical Society Penang.
A Japanese Technology Weekend will be held in September with events and workshops lined up by Sony EMCS (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Toray Group (Malaysia) and Murata Electronics (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
There will also be education programmes at the Tech Dome which is open daily from 10am to 6pm except for Tuesdays. Find out more about the science centre, entrance fees and register for the programmes at http://techdomepenang.org.