10 exhibits all kids loved at Glasgow Science Centre

Read time 5 minutes
Posted on April 25th 2022
An excited audience watches as ping pong balls fly in all direction from mouse traps, set in motion by a chain reaction.

Glasgow Science Centre celebrates its 21st birthday in 2022. The hands-on visitor attraction holds a fond place in the hearts of many who’ve visited it over the years and explored their curiosity through the science exhibits. Hands-up who as a kid (small or big) hasn’t gone for a spin whilst trying to roll a ball in a straight line on the 'points of view' roundabout, put their head on a plate, or sat in the cupola of the International Space Station and taken a selfie with Scotland?

Interactive science exhibits for kids - big and small!

Exhibition galleries have undergone transformation too since the centre officially opened on 5th July 2001, giving school groups, communities and the public plenty of intrigue and excitement along the way. Surely, everyone in Glasgow has set sail for a voyage of discovery by ringing the bell on The Big Explorer, pushed the chaos pendulum, or looked on in wonder as tiny fragments of atoms were smashed apart in the cloud chamber leaving behind just a wispy trail.

Over the years some exhibits have come and gone (Alice in Wonderland, Science in the Dock, the slide on the third floor, for example), or been refreshed or updated (classics like the sand table, the vortex cannon, and the distorting mirrors to name a few). After all, at the hands of thousands of visitors these things must take a pounding! Fortunately, there’s an in-house team of engineers to keep things ticking over smoothly and who quickly fix anything that powers down or needs a replacement part. And of course, the science communicators have been there to help show you the ropes on using the exhibits or interpreting the science behind them.

Everyone has their own favourite memories of playing at the science centre exhibits and discovering something they didn’t know. Or, experienced that moment of clarity when suddenly everything your physics teacher had been telling you about electromagnets made sense because you pushed the button on the jumping rings. Sometimes it’s the simple things that have the biggest impact. Sometimes, it’s the exhibits that have a sensory hook to them that really captivate the visitor, like the gentle hum of the water bowl vibrating as you rub your finger around the metallic rim to watch the mesmerising wave patterns that form.

But, let's be brutally honest: We’ve got a top ten list of exhibits that we know everyone loves at Glasgow Science Centre. So, let’s lay them out and see if you can convince us otherwise...

Top 10 exhibits...

10. The infra-red harp

A person plucks the invisible strings of the infra-red harp

Everyone who claims to have visited the science centre must have plonked themselves down, raised their hands and wiggled their fingers before plucking the ‘invisible’ strings of the infra-red harp in the hope of creating a fleeting ethereal musical masterpiece.

9. The energy machine

The colossal metal-frame structure that is the Energy Machine

This statement piece is pretty much part of the structure of the building and lives solidly in the mind of visitors. Rising up from the ground floor to be energetically approached from the first floor, this exhibit demonstrates energy changes by lifting up balls and letting them fall back to the ground through a network of tracks, funnels, and loop the loops.

8. Bird Bot

Bird Bot - an orange mechanical beam with the metal head of a bird with a long orange beak and gold tinsel plumage.

In the days before social media (yes, we were around back then!) if you wanted a good gossip then you need look no further than Bird Bot. This robotic big bird was housed on the 2nd floor and wasn’t shy about greeting everyone as they arrived at the top of the stairs.

7. Walk On Piano

A walk on piano in a wooden frame at the science centre

Let’s face it, we love a bit of a tune at the science centre, and if it wasn’t the harp you found first it would have been the giant piano. Recreating that famous scene from the movie “Big” was every grown-up's time to shine in front of their kids. Tom Hanks eat your heart out!

6. Water Ways

A metal water table with interactives to explore and play with the properties of water

We all love water. And every under 7 loves the water table on The Big Explorer! Splish, splash and splosh your way to learning about floating, sinking and buoyancy without fear of judgement. Build dams, control the flow, and scoop the H2O up with an Archimedes screw. The power of play can never be underestimated when learning how the world works.

5. Wacky Salon

A group of people lean forwards as they try to walk through the Wacky Salon

You’d think walking in a straight line would be easy, but sometimes your brain has a funny way of interpreting your senses and the Wacky Salon plays on that to the max. We’ve seen people zig zag, shuffle and even crawl to get from one end of the room to the other – much to the amusement of the crowd watching their progress on the live video screen on the outside of the exhibit!

4. The Wind Tunnel

A fabric fish is placed into the bottom of a Perspex pipe and then emerges out from the open top.

Over the years there’s been a few different versions of these at the science centre and they’re hugely popular. Pop a fabric fish into a tunnel and watch it whoosh upwards before leaving the jet stream and falling back to earth. Or, make a paper helicopter and drop it into the rising air and observe in wonder as it spins furiously into the sky. We’re still picking some of these stray projectiles out of the nooks and crannies of the internal frame of the building!

3. The Gravity Well

The curves of the gravity well and the small balls (planets) that orbit through it

Set in the space zone, the gravity well has been going around and around in the minds of visitors as sure as the Earth orbits the Sun. Fortunately for Earth though it’s unlikely to take the rapid, ever-decreasing path to crash into the Sun that the balls whizzing around the gravity well take. Set multiple balls racing around though and amid the crashing and confusion there is universally beautiful physics on display.

2. The Bubble Wall

A thin film of bubble reflecting the science mall in a variety of colours.

Bubbles. If you can’t beat them – join them! And the bubble wall is ripe for joining in the fun at. Crank the handle to raise a film of soapy film that can be blown, popped, and observed to see the dazzling array of colours each corresponding to different thicknesses of bubble fluid.

1. The Hamster Wheel

A person runs in a giant hamster wheel

Yes, at number one it’s the exhibit that gets everyone in a spin and grinning like happy rodent – the hamster wheel! Set in the BodyWorks exhibition the queue for this human-scale exercise machine is worth it. Why doesn’t every playpark have one? Because they’re more fun in the science centre where the curiosity of life is, well, brought to life!

Share your favourite exhibits from the past 21 years

So, that’s the definitive top ten exhibits across the 21 years of the science centre that everyone agrees on. Or, is it? What exhibits fill your memories of visiting Glasgow Science Centre?

Share your favourites with us on social media by 31 May 2022 using #CelebrateGSC21 and you could be in with a chance of winning tickets to visit and an awesome science hamper to continue your science curiosity at home! 

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Celebrating 21 years

Glasgow Science Centre is 21 this year!

As part of the 21st birthday celebrations, we’d love to hear your favourite memories of Glasgow Science Centre. Find out more by clicking the button below.


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