Education

Oh Wow Adds Exhibits as 6th Anniversary Nears

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Officials at the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology are laying the groundwork for its future in more than one respect.

Last week, two carpenters from RedBox Workshop in Chicago were completing work on the newest exhibit at Oh Wow, “Drive to Dance,” and upgrading the “windy pipes” exhibit, now known as “A-Mazing Airways.”

Oh Wow will officially open the exhibits the weekend of May 13 when the center celebrates its sixth anniversary,

“We’re going to be doing some big announcements,” said Colleen Ruby, director of visitor services.

Suzanne Barbati, Oh Wow president and executive director, declined to be more specific.

“We’re just positioning ourselves for the future and the future of our community, and to make sure we’re here for our children and our grandchildren,” Barbati said. “So the announcements are related to those efforts.”

Like “Drive to Hold,” added in January to showcase various prosthetic limbs, “Drive to Dance” shows visitors how to function with an artificial limb, in this case one or both legs. Oh Wow “explorers,” as the center refers to its patrons, can watch videos of people with either a prosthetic leg or, in one case, using a wheelchair, as they attempt to replicate their movements. Video of the guests is then shown on another screen in the exhibit.

The “Drive” gallery focuses on how individuals can use technology to accomplish goals and overcome obstacles, Ruby said. Among the models are two from the Mahoning Valley who went to Chicago to be recorded for the exhibit.

“Much like ‘Drive to Hold,’ it’s about introducing children to people with disabilities, and specifically people with handicaps,” said Kurt Kupferer, one of two RedBox carpenters. “Children with prosthetics can see people just like them and how active you can be with prosthetic devices. Even in a wheelchair, you can still dance.”

The exhibit is completed except for a set of spotlights that Oh Wow staff will install to indicate where visitors should stand to be captured on video, Kupferer said. “Other than that, everything is working well,” he said. “The kids were watching the instructors and doing the dance moves. The kids will really enjoy that.”

The upgraded tube exhibit is all-clear and “enables explorers to interact a little better,” Ruby said. “When they put the scarves or the ball in, they’re able to track it better.”

Added Barbati, “We needed to make some modifications for it to meet universal design principles. To do the repairs would have cost as much as to replace it.”

The Sokolov and Miller families “generously agreed to sponsor the replacement of that exhibit,” she said.

“We wanted to do this. This was the exhibit we wanted originally and we chose not to do that for a number of reasons until six years into it,” she continued. “Now we’re getting exactly what we wanted.”

Over the past six months, Oh Wow has been evaluating all its exhibits, working with interns from Brown Mackie College and Oh Wow’s “stay fresh” committee to determine which exhibits were the highest priority to replace, enhance or repair, she said.

Barbati described herself as “more than satisfied” with how Drive to Dance and its related exhibits turned out. “These are exhibits that nobody else has,” she said. “We’re very excited and we’re looking forward to more people coming in and exploring as a result of the new exhibits.”

Pictured:  Suzanne Barbati with Hadley Komlanc, her granddaughter, in the Dance to Drive exhibit.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.