Step Right Up to Science City’s Newest Exhibit, Designed by Kids!

This post is sponsored by Science City, Kansas City’s dynamic, hands-on science center at Union Station. 

Who doesn’t love a carnival? Especially the games along the midway. You don’t have to go to an actual carnival to get a similar experience these days. Step Right Up! is the newest hands-on exhibit to open inside Union Station’s Science City. Taking inspiration from carnival game favorites, this exhibit explores STEM concepts.

Step Right Up! actually comes from the minds of middle schoolers – Tonganoxie Middle School students to be exact. The exhibit is their winning Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains proposal. They put together 11 different exhibits to test your skills and teach you something as well.

Step Right Up! is now open at Science City. Thanks to Burns & McDonnell for this great new space.
Step Right Up! is now open at Science City. Thanks to Burns & McDonnell for this great new space.

Professional teams from Burns & McDonnell and Science City – together with the Tonganoxie students — spent more 3,700 hours in planning, design and construction. The results are impressive. The exhibit is designed for students 7-12, so of course I took my 6 year old. He’s very much into physics and science, and we are lifelong devotees (well, all six years of his life) of Science City. Let me just say that Step Right Up! did not disappoint.

Although it’s designed for 7-12 year olds, my 6 year old definitely had a good time shooting baskets, trying to solve a maze, sending a sphere 20 feet into the air, and nursing a burgeoning skee ball addiction. That’s what’s so cool about this exhibit. All of the activities are fun things your kids would enjoy anyway, but the panels on the wall describe the lesson tied to the game.

The Trick Shot is just like pop-a-shot
This kid showed mad ups and a sweet jump shot to boot at the Trick Shot game.

Trick Shot is the basketball activity. It’s like pop-a-shot, forcing kids to use different angles and trajectories to score. Ramp It Up is just like skee ball. Kids were able to learn Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. For the Circle of Chance, it’s all about probability and what number the circle would land on. One of my favorites was Kinetic Collisions. You can see how high a sphere can go just by dropping a few spheres connected to a wire. The concept is very similar to a strongman’s game where you strike a lever with a mallet to see how high you can make the puck go. My son and I had fun seeing which technique made for a more powerful reaction and competing to see who could make their sphere go higher. I’m proud to say I won that game.

The red sphere really goes high when you play Kinetic Collisions.
Ramp it Up is just like skee ball
Ramp It Up is just like Skee Ball. It takes a lot to remind a 6 year old NOT to play this game overhanded.

There are several other games in the space and we had a great time moving around the area from one to the next. He was really interested in the “why” of the games, and what made them work the way they did. I would say the Tonganoxie Middle Schoolers really did a great job helping design an exhibit that’s educational, but also just plain fun.

There are a few important things for parents and caregivers to know about Step Right Up!:

  • Size. It’s not a large space at all. When we were there, it was crowded with about 40 people moving around. Everyone was masked (thank you, Science City for this policy!), and people were doing their best to give each other space.

    Step Up Right Up! can get crowded quickly.
    Step Right Up! is fun, but it’s not a large space and can get crowded quickly.
  • Don’t bring strollers. Again, the space isn’t big. A stroller would be in the way.
  • Lots of rogue balls. Some of that danger could come from rogue basketballs and rogue ramp it up balls. Those games are right next to each other. When things got intense and the middle schoolers, their families, and my son were in heated competition, the balls kept rolling out onto the floor. It was wild.
  • Better for older kids. Although my 6 year old really enjoyed the activities and learning about the lessons, this was designed for kids 7-12 and they were spot on with that age range. Younger kids with a strong interest in science, how things work, or who just want to do everything their older siblings do would likely have a good time, but this is not for littles.

Every time we go to Science City, I am so glad that this gem is in KC. It brings kids’ imaginations alive and teaches them so much. Step Up Right Up! is a perfect addition to this, and what’s even cooler is that it’s the result of kids using their brains. Burns & McDonnell’s Battle of the Brains competition is a great outlet to foster that love of learning. Can you believe nearly 60% of Science City exhibits were born in the imaginations of KC kids through Battle of the Brains.

When my kindergartner learned that kids in middle school grades helped design this, he looked at me and said “I can’t wait until I’m a grader so I can work on cool exhibits like this.” Well done, Step Up Right Up! Well done.

Science City powered by Burns & McDonnell is currently open Wednesday thru Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Expanded hours and days are coming soon.  Admission into the science center is $14*/person and Union Station Members visit year-round for free.

East Coast snob finds happiness in Midwest. That would be my headline if I was a news story. Here's the real story though: I'm Courtney, mother to 6 year old James. I'm a New England native who moved to KC in 2004 for a TV news job and had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward to now and my son is a Kindergartner, we live in the urban core, and I'm a recovering TV news producer who loves working in the KC civic and non-profit community, currently for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. I'm passionate about public education, supporting small businesses, the Chiefs, the Red Sox (sorry not sorry), and living in the city. My son is passionate about LEGOs, books, hot wheels, and jokes about poop and butts.


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