One of Northern Ireland’s favourite visitor destinations, W5 Science Centre, re-opens to the public after a redevelopment from a £4.5million investment.
Leading visitor experience designers, Mather & Co, have been working in partnership with interactive design specialists, Aivaf, on the new world-class science and discovery hub at W5 Science Centre in Belfast. The role of Mather & Co and Aivaf was to develop two new gallery floors of exhibits, interactives, and engaging audio-visuals to stimulate science learning. Mather & Co was commissioned specifically to bring theatrical theming and graphics alongside the physical interactivity and the latest audio-visual interactivity.
Alec Hawkins, Graphic Designer at Mather & Co said: “It was really rewarding to design a whole experience where the focus was on facilitating young people’s learning in a fun way. The design helped expand how engaging and varied this can be for the visitors. Designing for such a heavily interactive space was certainly a challenge but provided a really satisfying and strong outcome.”
The reimaged W5 Science Centre offers STEM learning by using real tasks and scenarios – allowing visitors to discover the problem, design, and experiment how to overcome it and develop a solution and understand why. The sceneries link to Belfast so that visitors are working with real life tasks that are relevant to their lives rather than abstract concepts. The interactives designed by Aivaf aim to include open-ended interactivity, allowing visitors the freedom to design and be creative without restriction.
Bruce Davies, Managing Director at Aivaf said: “Aivaf are extremely proud and honoured to have led a fantastic team in the creation of this exceptional visitor attraction. We are very excited to finally see the whole exhibition and our interactives in operation, educating and inspiring every visitor. It has been a long and tough journey working throughout the global pandemic, but the results are truly amazing and It was a joy to work with such a creative design team at Mather and Co.”
In the centre of level two, zone one, you are met with a giant 4m machine, Marvellous Machine, where visitors can use the various mechanical interactivity to learn about ancient mechanics such as Archimede’s screw, cogs, springs, and levers.
In the Energise zone you can power the city of Belfast – visitors can understand what energy is and how it is created. This fun and high energy zone delves into renewable and non-renewable energy forms and their impact on our lives and environment.
The final zone on level two is Move It – build, test, and race your own car! There are various experiments visitors can take part in to understand key physics theories such as drag, thrust, aerodynamics, speed, gears, materials, grip. There is something fun for many audiences, from up-and-coming engineers or those that just like to make things move.
On level four, you are met with a highly visual space styled as a landscape, with a cut-out tree that cycles through the seasons and showcases the changes that brings to wildlife and weather. Further into this zone, you can discover a beautiful projected sea floor interactive – visitors can ‘paddle their feet’ in the water and discover the species that are native to the coastline.
In the next zone, The Studio, you can take your place in the hot seat and read the evening news bulletins for W5’s News Channel or alternatively create your own character and bring them to life.
In the Making Sense zone not everything is as it seems – showcasing illusionary interactives that trick the eye or mind. From vortex tunnels that visitors can walk through, to a UV torch interactive where they can reveal information to a series of anamorphic illusions and a zoetrope that creates animations from static images.
Step into the final zone, Build It, a zone with play and creativity at its heart. You can create arches, columns, domes, towers, and pyramids, or try out your own building ideas using only your imagination.
The redeveloped W5 Science Centre opened to the public Monday 25th October. This project was made possible through a NI Government grant to support opportunities and engagement with Science in Northern Ireland.