Canada’s first “purpose-built” science centre in the last 25 years, Telus Spark opened last October, a $160 million project in development for more than a decade. Already one of this city’s most lauded cultural achievements, the science centre is sure to inspire many future Newtons, Teslas, maybe even a Rockefeller or two. But does a visit to Spark truly ignite and entertain the mind? Here, a quick look at Calgary’s biggest scientific experiment.
The building itself is modern, bright and, as one might infer from driving past on the Deerfoot; huge. The main floor currently offers two exhibits: Earth & Sky and Energy & Innovation, as well as the Creative Kids Museum, gallery, gift shop, and two theatres, with a third under construction.
Earth & Sky admittedly boasts some very cool displays. There is a 360˚ video screen showing a time-elapsed day in Calgary (shot from the top of The Bow) and a weird instrument you can play with drips of water. Energy & Innovation contains more interactive displays and less kiddie-style craft stations than Earth & Sky. There’s quite a bit to learn about energy and fuel here, like how to set up a working energy grid, and the mechanics of wind turbines. Petrobank Energy, PetroBakken Energy, and Petrominerales sponsor the gallery, so beware of a fair bit of “oil is awesome; tarsands are great” pseudo-propaganda throughout. (One display is nothing more than a video screen playing testimonials of Alberta energy sector workers, discussing their proudest energy-related achievements.)
The exhibit I found most relatable was Being Human. Many things that you’d think are philosophical and beyond-science — why a hug feels good, or the brain’s chemical reaction to falling in love — are explained with elegant graphic artwork on simple displays. Definitely a great exhibit for a date, as the staring contest, memory tests and compatibility test all make for some fun moments.
Spark is a reasonably priced experience, good for at least a half day; if you have kids, you should plan a trip immediately — watching their little faces light up with revelation is sure to be worth the price of admission. If you want the best the new facility has to offer, though, I’d recommend waiting until April, when the HD Digital Dome is set to open. 220 St. George’s Dr. N.E. 403-817-6800
Image courtesy of Spark Imagery.