New Kid Grid exhibit at Marbles aims to spark energy education

jblack@newsobserver.comJune 6, 2014 

  • If you go

    What: Kid Grid opens at Marbles Kids Museum on Saturday at 9 a.m.

    Where: 201 E. Hargett St. in Raleigh

    Museum hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. (Open until 7 p.m. every Thursday and on First Fridays.)

    Admission: $5 per person

— The future stars of Research Triangle Park may well be found at Marbles Kids Museum’s newest exhibit, Kid Grid, which opens Saturday.

With its play versions of cables, control systems, motors, towers and transformers, Kid Grid offers a hands-on way to introduce children to smart energy choices; to reinforce science, technology, engineering and mathematics education; and to build interest in energy careers.

Greg Scheu, head of North America for ABB Group Limited, said the company partnered with Marbles because it wanted to excite kids and get them involved in STEM education early on.

“With today’s society being so interactive, we’ve created an exhibit that kids are going to be able to interact with,” he said. “This is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that gets kids involved in this field at such an early age.”

The central feature of the Kid Grid, and the favorite part of Pam Hartley, project manager and vice president of play experience at Marbles, is the control center of a power grid.

“From a play perspective, kids are completely curious about the world,” she said. “This exhibit allows kids to put themselves at control of a power system and to imagine a future where they can control the world’s power. This can be a track for success at school.”

With the growing prominence of RTP, it should come as no surprise that an exhibit on STEM education and clean energy has found its way into a children’s museum.

“We know there is an important conversation happening in the world about the future of energy,” said Sally Edwards, president of Marbles. “Kids are going to leave the museum and pass a lot of things in the real world they saw at Marbles, and that’s going to spark conversations.”

Construction on the exhibit began in January.

Two years ago, ABB, a power and automation technologies developer, announced a $1 million donation for the project. ABB’s U.S. and North American headquarters is in Cary.

In January 2013, ABB employees and their kids met at Marbles to design potential power grids. From there, Marbles worked with Cincinnati’s Kramer Construction and Seattle’s Pacific Studio to sketch the designs and to build the Kid Grid.

“It’s been awesome. The exhibit has completely come from the kids,” Hartley said. “The similarity between the original sketches to the way it looks now is uncanny.”

Added Edwards, “Other power exhibits have a lot of words and are aimed at a whole different audience. Kid Grid is a very innovative way of exposing students to power grids.”

Also, Kid Grid was designed specifically to appeal to girls, according to Edwards.

“For whatever reason of societal cues, girls are not interested in STEM careers,” she said. “The kids playing at Marbles today may well be a part of the cleantech workforce in 2040.”

The exhibit faces Hargett Street and overlooks the museum’s main entrance. It is the first addition to change the exterior facade of the museum since its opening in 2007.

The new rings adorning Marbles’ exterior work both for aesthetic and practical purposes.

“The rings double as solar shading and showing the outside world what Marbles is all about,” Edwards said.

Black: 919-829-4835; Twitter: @j_black13

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