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Lab Harnesses Kid Energy

Standing under a series of steel tracks designed to carry colorful balls up and away, Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill can see the potential. All around her workmen are hurrying to make sure the Energy Lab exhibit is ready for a surge of excited young people at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children grand reopening on Nov. 20.

"It's all about energy in all of its different types and forms," said Sheri. Vacuum tubes will carry balls through a maze to tracks hovering overhead. A water wall will have magnetic pieces children can move to alter the flow. A pressure volcano will throw balls into the air where a net will catch and direct them to another part of the exhibit.

"The more people in the gallery, the more energy there will be all around and the more things happening," said Sheri. Each part of the exhibit is connected to the others so the flow of one section affects everything around it, and at every step the children will have a hand in directing the flow. Sheri said it isn't unlike a giant Rube Goldberg machine, where a hammer knocks an egg down a track toward a domino that falls and forces a little toy soldier to flip into a basket.

Even potential energy is covered, as there will be a section for children to crawl through that explains the concept. Solar, non-renewable and kinetic energy also have a place in the exhibit, but ultimately the museum is looking to expand on one very particular power source. "It's all about kid energy," said Sheri. "That was a big theme we discussed."

The project has been underway for three years, half of Sheri's tenure at Stepping Stones as director of exhibit design and delivery. Prior to that she worked at small design studios and delved into designing usable spaces. The chance to design exhibits has proven particularly rewarding for her. "I worked on other design projects where you don't really get to see the results," said Sheri as she walked over to what will be part of the exhibit's water course. "Here you get to come out on the floor and really experience everything. It's just very rewarding."

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