The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is currently hosting a special exhibit called 2theXtreme: MathAlive! It combines math, science, and engineering with action sports, design, and pop culture. In other words, quoting the MathAlive! site, it “answer[s] the age-old question: ‘Will I ever use all this math they’re teaching us?'” Last month, I got to check it as part of the museum’s adult-only Social Science event, which also featured a BMX demo.
Even though MathAlive! is designed for a younger audience, it still contains some fun hands-on activities and educational tidbits for adults. Unfortunately we’re too big to enjoy the rock climbing wall and comfortably sit on the stationary bike (I have short legs and it was still awkward for me). Several of the games seemed easy, but they still required some thinking. This is a math exhibit after all!
My favorite part of the exhibit was the skateboard design challenge. You selected board length, truck placement, and wheel size in order to create the ideal board for an ollie. While it could have used a better explanation as to why a design failed, it was a cool way to look at a math problem. My second favorite module was the 360-degree camera if only because I got this little souvenir:
Scattered throughout the exhibit were videos of people who use math, which range from engineers to video game designers to skateboarders.
I appreciated the diversity, particularly with the female scientists and engineers shown. Women in math and science rarely get any face time, which negatively impacts girls thinking of getting into STEM fields. so I’m glad the exhibit is doing its part to promote equality.
The boardercross game should have been fun and easy, but the board was really rickety. I didn’t utilize the rails because I wanted to emulate the real snowboarding experience. Unfortunately I crashed too much in trying to get my balance. Although it’s been over a decade since I stepped foot on a board, I can’t imagine my balance being that bad (I dance and still occasionally skateboard). That was probably the most disappointing aspect of the exhibit for me. Nevertheless the exhibit contained more ups than downs; just remember that it’s for kids and during regular hours, you’ll probably have to fight them to give each section a try.
Because I had to buy separate tickets for MathAlive!, I spent a lot of time there and didn’t get to see other aspects of Social Science. I did catch the second freestyle BMX demo by BMX Pros Trick Team. The riders have my admiration because not only did some of them come from doing demos all day at the State Fair, but they had to deal with low light and a moderately energetic (and somewhat inebriated) crowd. Nevertheless, they still pulled out some of the big tricks.