By Alexia Evripidou
The first ever fully interactive science museum in Cyprus offers visitors the chance to join the fun exploring science in their Limassol-based educational playground.
The Archimedes Science Centre boasts over 20 bespoke instructive and entertaining games inspired by Archimedes, the Ancient Greek mathematician of ‘eureka’ fame, and his studies on ‘Ancient Machines’.
An informative playground for young and old alike, both the centre and the games are the brainchild of Royal Institute of British Architects architect and scenographer George Papadopoulos.
Opened in February 2014, the Archimedes Science Centre is one of a kind. Sprawled over two floors, the venue is filled with cleverly designed games aimed to stimulate the mind. Geared to all ages and all levels of scientific ability and knowledge, its purpose is to encourage the ‘fun side of science,’ whilst negotiating Archimedes’ inspired games.
“We’re trying to make science easy to understand (by relating physics to everyday uses), so you don’t have to put your brain to work. You work and play, simultaneously learning and discovering,” says Papadopoulos.
The museum began as a fleeting vision for Papadopoulos during a family holiday to Scotland’s Ben Nevis. Dizzy with fresh clean air George had his own eureka moment walking in the clouds. Visualising a space where people could learn about Archimedes’ principles in a ‘hands on’ way became a dream he realised in 2014.
“There was nothing like this in Cyprus and very few places anywhere else in the world” explains Papadopoulos.
Motivated by an Archimedean exhibition at the Eureka National Children’s Museum in Yorkshire, he put his own money where his mouth was and began working towards his goal, fully funding the museum himself.
“When I saw the screw pump at the exhibition, I was taken aback. I hadn’t realised that Archimedes had invented it, this and the fact that Archimedes is part of our Greek Culture inspired me to create the museum.” Archimedes – born 287 BC, designed the screw pump for transferring water from a low-lying body of water into irrigation ditches.
Papadopoulos wasted no time researching and educating himself in all things Archimedes. He discovered that Archimedes’ inventions relied on five ancient (or simple) machines; wheel and axle, screw, inclined plane, wedge and pulley. These are mechanical devices that change the direction or magnitude of a force. They are the elementary ‘building blocks’ of which all more complicated machines are made. For example, wheels, levers, and pulleys are all used in the mechanism of a bicycle. All of these ancient machines are still relied on heavily in modern industry today.
“Using these ancient machines and mathematics, Archimedes invented things like cranes and weapons of warfare. He also discovered buoyancy, [his] ‘eureka’ moment. Buoyancy is the principle that governs ships and submarines. This has been used throughout the ages.”
Papadopoulos used this newly researched knowledge to design all of the museum’s games. He enlisted the help of his company ‘Skinotechniki’ and after approximately two and a half years of hard work, it eventually came together.
“At Skinotechniki we build museums, exhibitions, stage sets and festive town decorations.” They built the set for Junior Eurovision 2008 and received the US magazine ‘Light, Design and Excellence Award’ for it.
One such interactive game at the museum is the body contorting ‘Laser Maze’. The aim is to weave through the green lasers which are reflected on glass in a smoke filled room, without touching any beams. This idea came from one of Archimedes’ warfare inventions. As well as being a famed mathematician, Archimedes was commissioned by his king to design weapons.
Archimedes discovered that using geometry, the sun, mirrors and reflections, he could converge light rays onto enemy ships, setting them alight; hence Papadopoulos’ inspiration for the Laser Maze room. Archimedes also designed the crane – used by the king to lift unsuspecting enemy ships out of the water, smashing them against the rocks. Papadopoulos recreates this with his ‘Crane Game’, where people can sit using a scaled to size crane to crash wooden ships.
Other games include the Mirror Maze; a labyrinth of reflections, and Papadopoulos’ personal favourite, The Big Machine; designed by Papadopoulos to comprise all the five ancient machines. This one took Papadopoulos and his team eight months to finish, constantly tweaking it to find the right balance between fun and education. Then there’s the geometrically challenging ‘Rope and Square Structure’ problem solving game. Or the 2D square Osteomachion, using only 14 puzzle pieces, “there are 536 ways to solve this puzzle and yet, it has proven to be the most difficult game in the museum” says Papadopoulos.
“Adults get just as excited as the kids,” explains manager Zena Petrou. “They become very involved with the games once they try them. We’re constantly receiving feedback from visitors that this centre was very much needed in Cyprus.”
“Children who’re learning about these scientific principles at school come here and experience the games at the museum directly. Then the information they learn at school, begins to start making sense; learning through practical exposure and not just words,” explains Papadopoulos.
The museum also offers food labs, looking at the science of how bread or cup cakes rises using yeast.
“All cooking is science. The kids will make them and the staff will cook them on the premises, giving the end products to the kids to take away with them” says Petrou. There’s something for everyone at the museum, catering to tourists, school groups, private themed parties and anyone walking in off the street.
“The themed parties are something interesting and new to Cyprus, including science parties,” says Petrou. For schools and tour groups, they have a specifically designed programme, where they also watch videos about Archimedes and the ancient principles.
This year, the centre has organised a summer school (June 22-August 7) with a specialised programme for children 5-12 consisting of experiments, explosions and volcanoes, mental games, water games, handcrafts, gardening, sport competitions and even ‘making your own animation film’.
Archimedes Science Museum is open 6 days a week Tuesday to Sunday. Weekdays open from 3.30-8.30 weekends open from 10.30am-9pm. Website: http://www.archimedesmuseum.com/