Extreme Weather Exhibits for STEMists


Weather is a daily event that we cannot control.
It is the reason we choose to wear a sweater, bring a jacket, carry an umbrella or dress in layers.  Extreme weather often causes fear, panic and anxiety, and in its wake, major devastation.  STEMists tend to have an innate curiosity about weather events such as hurricanes, windstorms, tornadoes, hail, lightning and thunderstorms, and wonder why and how they occur.

Extreme Weather Exhibits for STEMists

Here are three groovy weather exhibits where STEMists and their families can interact with the science of weather.

Chicago Science Storms

STEMists will experience the perfect storm at the Science Storms exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry located in Chicago, Illinois. Science Storms is a journey that takes STEMists and their families from wonder to inquiry, curiosity to observation, and investigation to understanding. Science Storms helps STEMists make sense of the scientific process behind seven natural phenomena—lightning, fire, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion.

Science Storms exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry located in Chicago, Illinois

STEMists will learn about the conditions required to create a tornado at the 40-foot vortex live science experience; view the dramatic high voltage lightning charge while sitting beneath a large tesla coil; and investigate how fuel, oxygen and heat combine to create a flame. The exhibit is home to more than 50 experiments that span over two floors and 26,000 square feet, and attempt to help STEMists gain an understanding of the scientific process, physics and chemistry behind powerful Mother Nature.

San Francisco Earthquakes

The California Academy of Sciences Earthquake exhibit in San Francisco, California, is your ticket to understanding and exploring how seismic science has shaped Earth’s evolution.  In its walk-through Earth exhibit, STEMists can examine geologic specimens, and learn how earthquake waves can give us a better understanding about the inner workings of Earth’s solid core.

California Academy of Sciences Earthquake Exhibit

The San Francisco Shakes exhibit lets STEMists and their families experience simulated tremors of the two biggest earthquakes in the city—the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 and the 1906 Great San Francisco quake.  Visitors gather inside a Victorian-era home replica that stays true to its era— even the chandelier in the dining room has LED light strips to simulate incandescent lighting of 1989 and the flickering gas lights of 1906. During the three-minute earthquake simulation, visitors will notice various brightly colored household items rattling and shaking against the white walls.

The CAS website also entices visitors to read the titles of the books located on the bottom shelf of the book case in the dining room to reveal the bigger idea behind the entire Earthquake exhibit.  STEMists and their families will walk away from the San Francisco Shakes exhibit having experienced the difference between a 7.1 magnitude (Loma Prieta) versus a 7.8 magnitude (Great San Francisco).

The Earthquake Engineering Movie, also part of the Earthquake exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, is an event you won’t want to miss.  The movie explores how scientists are using seismic science to build stronger, safer buildings.—a must-see for any investigative STEMist!

Florida Hurricanes

Hurricanes are a distant relative to the tornado and much stronger, affecting greater area both on land and sea.  Heavy rains, lightning, and hail with top-speed winds and tornados all accompany a hurricane, and is perhaps one of the most curious of the extreme weather events. Hurricane research is conducted throughout the U.S.; however none compare to The Wall of Wind (WOW).

The Wall of Wind

WOW, located within at Florida International University’s (FIU) International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) in Miami, Florida, is capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane.  The Wall of Wind is housed in the most powerful university research facility of its kind, and consists of 12 enormous fans generating high speed winds that replicate CAT 5 levels– the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Researchers and engineers are convinced WOW will greatly influence the engineering and design of our future.

The IHRC also holds an annual Wall of Wind Challenge competition for teams of high school students who provide a solution for wind-related problems.  The WOW Challenge consists of a written paper, oral presentation and a physical test of their mitigation strategy. If your STEMists are fascinated by hurricane-force winds, FIU should be on the top of their college choice list.

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