Dublin’s new science museum may not be cheap, but it provides a great day out, writes Vickie Maye.
It’s not every midterm break you find yourself lying on a bed of 3000 nails. The kids had a week off, so it was decided that Explorium, the new science museum in the Dublin mountains, would be our big day out.
The bed of nails is one of the science centre’s biggest talking points, thanks in part to Ryan Tubridy’s decision to try it live on The Late Late Show. Director of Sports and Science at Explorium, former Shamrock Rovers footballer, Mark Langtry urged him to try it on TV, and he was there to give me the same nudge.
Mark is bouncing with enthusiasm — he doesn’t so much walk as bound through a room, high fiving as he goes. There was no way, I realised, to say no to someone as upbeat as this. You won’t feel a thing, heassured me, and (thankfully) he was right.
It’s a matter of distributing your weight across many nails so they don’t pierce you, he explained afterwards (as I checked my back for traces of blood).
It was the one of hundreds of ways Explorium made science fun.
The Lightning Room was another highlight. Here Mark and his team create lightning with Ireland’s first Tesla Coil show.
The kids, mouths open, were in awe. Everything is brought back to the children’s level of understanding. Earphones are worn to mute the noise made by the lightning but Mark doesn’t talk in
decibel levels. No, he tells kids it’s louder than being beside a jumbo jet at take off. They ooh and ahh in amazement.
His year as a presenter on RTÉ’s kids’ science show Let’s Find Out, has left its mark. He knows how to talk to kids, and manages to explain complex scientific theories in such a way that it clicks with them.
The Gravity Room had the six of us — literally — on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. An optical illusion, the room is at a 20° angle. You may see a normal room — but your body does not agree. We staggered from one end of the room to other, falling back on the cushioned walls. With kids aged 13 down to 4 it’s rare to find a shared moment that will have us all crying with laughter.
It’s one of the science centre’s biggest selling points. These days it can be hard to lure the 13 year old out to activities that appeal to 4, 5 and 7 year olds. Explorium has something for everyone.
Upstairs is for older kids and teens (eight plus — though our younger kids loved it too).
Here we learned how a jumbo jet flies, and even made some balls fly in the air. We created our own earthquakes, destroying our Lego buildings. We made paper rockets, and showed our competitive streaks in a range of running challenges. We made film shorts in the movie room — emailed to us that evening — and drove remote control space rovers over sandy terrains. Have your camera ready for the ‘upside room’ with couches and even toilets on the ceiling (cue queues of kids posing for photos that make them look like they putting their heads in the loo).
And that was only upstairs.
On the ground floor the Junior Explorium is a dream for younger kids: a mini shop complete with trolleys, aisles and cash registers; dress up theatre; climbing frames; sensory area — and the big drawcard: a chance to catch a scarf as it flows through a pneumatic tubing system and shoots out the top.
Also the ground floor there’s an audiotorium with science shows and space documentaries, alongside it tables with science experiments for kids. There are also G Force bikes, where you literally cycle upside down, as you loop a metal circle. Even with the promise of a harness I wasn’t brave enough for that.
There was no time to stop at the restaurant (even with its robotic team) — there was the climbing wall, caving and Virtual Reality Room to get through.
You wouldn’t expect to find a rollercoaster at Explorium, but the VR delivers just that. Put your headset on, tie your seat belt, and you could be anywhere in the world.
We chose the climbing over the caving — we’ll save that for another day. And we will be making a return visit. In a time when we need more girls to explore careers in STEM, this should be on every family’s must-do list. (Bed of nails optional.)
The bottom line Explorium isn’t cheap, and it’s pretty much the only downside.
Visitors 8 plus are €28. Under 7s are €12. (A family ticket would be a sensible addition) It’s an additional €15 for caving or climbing.