The Tech Museum
Posted January 24, 2012on:
On Saturday afternoon I went to the Tech Museum in San Jose after hearing about it from our interview with Rick. I was actually pretty disappointed with some of the quality of the exhibits (there were a good number that simply didn’t work), but I was still able to observe a good number of kids at the various exhibits the museum offered.
There were definitely some exhibits that were geared for younger versus older kids. The ages of kids probably ranged from 4 or 5 years old to preteen age (12 or 13). One unexpected thing I noticed was that about a third of those who brought the kids were grandparents. It actually didn’t cross my mind that grandparents would think to bring their grandchildren to science museums, but this shows that they care about the kids’ educational future beyond just buying them toys that might serve this purpose, verifying grandparents (a subset of the gift-giving relatives) as a customer segment for our product.
Of the numerous exhibits there, the most popular exhibits were the following:
- Getting your face drawn by a robot in the Robot Design Basics area: For this exhibit, you would get your picture taken and a robot would draw your face with a pen by processing this picture. Once the robot was done drawing, you could take the picture home with you. There was consistently a line of at least 6 kids waiting to get their picture taken since it probably took about 5 minutes for the robot to draw a kid’s face. The line was comprised largely of girls, perhaps because it could be displayed in their room and girls are all about customizing and personalizing their space.
- Jet Pack Simulator in the Exploration Gallery: You get to sit in a jet pack chair and have to line up a red light to as many targets as possible in 50 seconds. This exhibit was super popular and also consistently had a line of at least 6 kids. Plenty of girls were in line for this as well.
Some interesting exhibits, while not as popular as the previous two, still consistently had kids at them:
- Genetic Scientist: The idea is to put jellyfish DNA in bacteria to make it glow. There were four stations there and generally 2 of the 4 stations were being used. There was a touchscreen that displayed step-by-step instructions so it was pretty self-explanatory.
- In general, drawing on touchscreens was a hit. One involved drawing on a board with your choice of using your finger as a pencil, paintbrush, or spray paint. Another was more abstract where you could simply drag your fingers around and a design would automatically appear on the main screen.
Finally, at the end of my visit, I went to check out the Tech Store to see what sort of toys/kits they sold. They had the usual assortment of science kits and also had a bigger version of one of our analogs, Snap Circuits. However, the products that were most popular with girls were the jewelry and colored, polished rocks. I was taken aback by how excited the girls were by the jewelry stands in the store; it was easily the product that constantly had girls surrounding it. The colored rocks also appeared to be a hit with the girls as they were brightly colored and visually appealing. One last observation I made was how it was clear that certain items in the store were being marketed to certain genders. In particular, there were shirts being sold with words spelled out using elements from the periodic table. The girl version was a pink shirt with “CUTe” written on it whereas the boy version was a red shirt with “GeNIUS” on it. While it wasn’t pointedly stated that the pink shirt was for a girl and the red shirt for a boy, they were displayed together such that it is pretty clear to a kid which shirt is intended for a girl versus a boy. It annoyed me that the boy gets the “genius” shirt while the girl was simply “cute”.
My findings from the visit brought up some ideas for our product that had undergone the pivot to building kits. One idea was to make an LED jewelry kit based on the excitement girls had over the jewelry in the Tech Store, but would also allow us to incorporate engineering into it. It would give girls the opportunity to personalize it and express themselves. Another thought was to make instructional videos for the kits online, and this could be integrated with the iPad to incorporate kids’ fascination with touchscreens.