Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Cabrillo Engineering Students Create Exhibits for Children’s Museum


May 22, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

16 engineering students who created Electric Fleas, Pendulum Wave and more to be honored at a reception, 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, May 29, at the museum in the Capitola Mall

A magnetic maze table, a pendulum wave and “electric fleas” are three of the nine new exhibits created by Cabrillo College students to be unveiled at a reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, May 29 at The Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery in the Capitola Mall.

Sixteen students from Prof. Jo-Ann Panzardi‘s Engineering (ENGR) 35 Statics, a three-unit class, paired up this past semester to design and fabricate STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Math) exhibits for the museum. ENGR 35 Statics is a sophomore level course where students study the effect of forces and torques on rigid bodies. It is the foundation course for all structural and machine design. Cabrillo College provides the first two years of the B.S. program in all fields of engineering. Students then transfer to a 4-year university to complete their degrees.

Every engineering course in Cabrillo College’s program has a design component to it. The creation of the exhibits was final project for the ENGR 35 Statics class.

“This project gave students a taste of real engineering,” said Panzardi, who is also chair of Cabrillo’s Engineering Department. “Real world design with constraints, a client, and a purpose.  What a wonderful opportunity for engineering students.”

Students in the course worked under the supervision of Children’s Museum of Discovery staff to create safe and engaging exhibits for children. This is the first time the museum has collaborated with Cabrillo College on exhibits.

The exhibits the students created include:

  • Chaotic Pendulum: Children will activate one arm of a pendulum and see the effect.
  • Magnetic Maze Table: A shadowbox exhibit about magnetism that allows children to experiment with various materials, learning which ones are magnetic and which ones are not.
  • Gears: Children will use handmade, 3-D printed gears on a magnetic wall to learn cause and effect.
  • Pendulum Wave: This hands-on, table-top exhibit allows children to experience wave interaction.
  • Electric Fleas: With a wave of their arms, children will create a sea of jumping “fleas” as iron filings react to static electricity.
  • Levers: Mechanical advantage and simple machines are the focus of this exhibit.
  • Pulleys: Children can explore the multiplying effect of pulleys through this exhibit.
  • Shock Absorbers: Children learn how different materials absorb the energy of a falling object in this exhibit.
  • Soil Liquefaction: Designed to work with our upcoming Earthquake Table, this exhibit will allows children to place pre-made bridges on two types of soil (wet and dry) and test how soil density affects structural integrity.

“Seeing the energy and creativity the students have put into conceptualizing and creating these exhibits has been wonderful,” said Patrice Keet, executive director of the museum. “We couldn’t be happier with what they came up with.”

The student-created exhibits will remain as part of the museum’s interactive displays indefinitely, mainly in the Technology area, one of five themed spaces. As a hands-on children’s museum, exhibits are constantly in flux, with materials being added or switched out regularly.


The Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit located in the Capitola Mall, aims to delight, inspire and challenge children by providing an exciting and interactive learning environment. The museum has 8,000-plus square feet of exhibits, classrooms and store space. Its hands-on exhibits bring learning to life by showcasing the wonders of Santa Cruz County: the place where the ocean meets the redwoods, where technology meets recreation, where agriculture meets health. Since opening in November 2014, more than 25,000 children and adults have visited.

The Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery, located at 1855 41st Avenue in Capitola, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the museum is $7 adults 18 and older, $5 children ages 2 to 17, and free for children under the age of 2. Learn more by visiting


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