Chances are, in the past seven years, the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit has been in a museum near you. The Orlando Science Center is the 18th stop on its 20-city tour. After missing out on the exhibit when it appeared at COSI in Columbus, Ohio for three months in 2006, I was finally able to catch it six years later.
At the Orlando Science Center the exhibit has a timed entrance ticket, for good reason. On the Saturday that Jason Knize and I went, well after the October opening date, there were still plenty of people lined up to enter the exhibition hall. The square footage of the exhibit is surprisingly small, and releasing people in small bursts is a good idea to avoid big crowds.
As you walk into the exhibit, the first section is dedicated to the scale models used for the ships in the original trilogy. The Millennium Falcon model was the first, followed by models of the Tantive IV, an X-Wing, a TIE Fighter, a Y-Wing, and the Devastator Star Destroyer.
Interesting fact: TIE Fighters were originally meant to be painted blue, but the blue screen technology used at the time wouldn’t allow a blue ship to show up. So, the TIE Fighter ended up being grey like the other ships. You’ll notice in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that TIE Fighters look a bit bluer than they did in A New Hope.
After the ship models there is a display of current technologies being developed to allow interstellar travel. Yes, this exhibit isn’t just tons of fictional geekery, there’s science to be learned, too.
Next up is Luke’s Tatooine landspeeder. It looks like you could jump in and drive away. Next to the landspeeder is a case with the miniature landspeeder model that was used for some of the distance shots, featuring some of the creepiest dolls you will ever see.
After the landspeeder is a case filled with models of real-life hovercraft in various stages of development. Next to that display is a chair that guests can ride in that floats on a cushion of air. There’s also a hands-on exhibit that demonstrates Maglev technology. Magnets. That’s how they work.
Costume displays begin next. There are costumes for Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Mace Windu. Luke’s training remote from A New Hope is on display, along with the original Yoda puppet. Yoda is so realistic it’s eerie.
On one wall are the costumes for Revenge of the Sith Wookiees Tarfful and Salporin, and on another wall is the Chewbacca costume. Even taking into consideration that the exhibits are about eight inches off the ground, these costumes are gigantic. Next to Chewbacca is Han Solo’s costume, looking quite dapper on its mannequin.
A series of augmented reality kiosks are across from the costume area. With a special table and small discs, the goal is to build a thriving city in the harsh environment of Tatooine. It’s actually very difficult, and I managed to get all of my virtual Jawas killed by thirsty Sandpeople.
There’s a section dedicated to Hoth, including the Wampa costume and props used on the Hoth set. Next to it is a modern-day parka used by researchers in the Antarctic.
There’s a large segment of the exhibit dedicated to prosthetic body parts and futuristic medicine. Darth Vader’s costume and helmet are big pieces here, along with a medical droid, Luke and Anakin’s prosthetic hands, and Lobot’s headpiece. Across from the Star Wars pieces are current technologies, including a cochlear implant, digital visual aids, and a prosthetic heart.
A display filled with blasters and lightsabers follows. After that are more costumes, including a Sandperson, a female Sandperson, a Jawa, Anakin’s The Phantom Menace costume, Leia’s senate dress, R2-D2, C-3P0, and Padme’s Geonosis costume.
The final section of the exhibit focuses on the science of robotics. There is a display of the various consumer robotics available today, including the Roomba and the AIBO. You can build your own Artoo unit by adding various wheels, and then program it to navigate obstacles. There’s also a display showing how robots are able to “see” and recognize human features.
A display of “naked” C-3PO, a Droideka, an Imperial probe droid, a pit droid, and a battle droid follows, along with an interactive display where you can make robotic legs walk. On the back wall of the exhibit are models of the various Imperial walkers, including the AT-AT and the AT-ST.
As always, everyone exits through the gift shop. They had a great amount of Star Wars merch, including a cute little book called The Jedi Path which is now on my wishlist.
That’s not everything, though. In an adjacent exhibit hall is a reproduction of the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit with a video narrated by Anthony Daniels about advances in space exploration. While the cockpit doesn’t move, the illusion of flight is pretty convincing, and can be a bit much if you’re easily motion-sick. It was an additional charge at the Orlando Science Center, but well worth the experience.
You should definitely try to see this exhibit if you’re a Star Wars fan. Sure, it’s almost at the end of its run, but there are still two stops left. It will be in Indianapolis in late May 2013, and the final venue will be announced sometime early this year. More information is available on the official site.
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