Untold Stories: Science Storms Tornado

The Evolution of an Idea/​Good Ideas Never Die

Every exhibit has ideas early on that never make it into the final project, either because it doesn’t fit the story or they aren’t feasible to build. Early concept sketch for the Tornado area reveal a few good examples of ideas that weren’t feasible to build, but the concept and content inspired something else that did get built.

The Air Pressure/Wind exhibit was originally conceived as a full body interactive where guests worked together to generate enough pressure to move a volume of air back and forth to inflate a giant balloon. Engineering studies revealed this was not feasible to build. In addition, there was concern that using a fan would create misconceptions about how wind is generated. 

This concept did not make the cut, however, it did inspire the exhibit team to create the air pressure table (the one with all the balls and the blowers) to demonstrate the Bernoulli principle (air pressure) in a different way.

Power of Wind is another one that ultimately morphed into the tornado tubes (balcony level near the maglev cars).
Same science concept and experience but a more realistic way to do it than we originally envisioned.

The Making Clouds exhibit was envisioned to be a walk-in, interactive cloud chamber. A great deal of studies determined that the engineering made this infeasible to build as envisioned. It would have worked if it was just a really large box and closed off, but the exhibit team wanted to make it possible for people to walk inside to directly experience being in a cloud. Having a door that opens and shuts was at odds with making the thing work.

Very early in the concept development of Science Storms, MSI engage artist Ned Kahn to envision a large scale, interactive tornado. These images are early concept sketches for the proposed tornado design along with photos of an 1/8th inch scale architectural model. (Fall 2005)

The drawings and model depict two large curved walls that partially enclose the vortex on two sides. Fans that create the rotating airflow and lighting are integrated into these walls. These 2 walls also support a circular roof with a 6’ diameter hole in the center where a large duct connects to a 7’ diameter vane axial fan that provides the updraft for the vortex. Hanging down from the circular roof are two 8’ tall partial walls that help sculpt the air entering the structure into a vortex. A fog plenum under the floor releases a fine mist of water droplets that make the vortex visible. All of these elements are included in the final engineered exhibit.