Guest article by Anne Hebert
A 40-foot wall of LED lights demonstrating the power of cell phone signals. A giant Romenesco broccoli-shaped sculpture illuminating fractals. A lifelike look at the inside of the Edwards Aquifer, showing the water cycle.
Would you imagine you’d find each of these inside once-defunct grain silos?
This is the new Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City, a non-profit science museum that encourages interactive learning, creative thinking and scientific discussion.
The 14,000-square-foot space features more than 25 interactive and educational exhibits, plus hands-on maker stations and art installations, all designed to spark kids’ interest and help them fall in love with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Technology of the Past Transformed for the Future
Housed in an historic 1880s gristmill and cotton gin, the museum has transformed the colorful grain silos and original mill building into high-tech exhibits engaging kids in cutting-edge science.
The Science Mill is the brainchild of founder Bonnie Baskin, PhD. She and her husband, both life-long scientists and educators, fell in love with Johnson City after visiting friends and moved there from Minnesota in 2009. When she noticed the dilapidated old grain mill downtown on Hwy 290, Baskin saw it was for sale and the idea of a new science space was born.
Baskin and her team spent two and a half years renovating the site, sourcing interactive, engaging exhibits and designing a place where kids can learn about science and career opportunities through hands-on involvement. “Demand for scientists and engineers is expected to greatly exceed other occupations in the next few decades,” says Baskin, “yet many kids have no idea what kinds of opportunities exist for them in science and technology. Our goal at the Science Mill is to inspire a large and diverse work force for the future.”
Science Fun for All Ages
The Mill’s exhibits were sourced both locally and globally, and many were created specifically for the space. The installations blend art, kinetic technology, augmented reality and computer gaming, and all are available in English or Spanish.
With hands-on experiments and interactive maker stations, the Science Mill engages the next generation of problem solvers by encouraging them to explore and engage with science. With a focus on middle school and high school students (but with something for ALL ages to enjoy), it allows students to imagine themselves as a future scientist or engineer. Whether creating a chemical explosion in the hydrogen ball launcher, experimenting with air pressure to move sailboats or making a 3D topographic map in a sandbox, it’s inevitable that visitors of all ages will have great fun while learning.
In addition to the many exhibits and hands-on activities, the Science Mill has a 3D movie theater, outdoor exhibits, a toddler play area and magnetic gear wall, exploration space, a Biology Lab, a café and much more.
Scientific exploration doesn’t end once visitors leave the museum. Through the Mill’s Avatar Experience, kids create their own personalized, animated, 3D avatar to accompany them throughout the Science Mill. The avatar serves as their science buddy and tour guide, and later as guide to the Explorer Zone–a personalized web resource available to them based upon their individual interests.
The Science Mill will host field trips, educational programs and summer camps, as well as special events. For more information, visit the venue’s official website.
Regular museum hours are:
- Wed-Sat: 10 AM-4 PM
- Sunday: 12-4 PM
Admission is free for children under 2, $6.50 for ages 2-18 and students, $8 for adults and $6 for seniors (65+) and military.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Will you be visiting the new Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City?
Awesome place to be! Wished I could setup my classroom like the science mill. Had a lot of fun with the mind games, ping-pong-ball maze and the zebra fish. Great place to let the nerd out.