Wichita-based Exploration Place has morphed its aviation exhibit into a fresh permanent exhibit, Design Build Fly. Sponsored by some of the major aircraft manufacturers based in the “Air Capital of the World,” including Spirit AeroSystems, Textron Aviation and Bombardier, the 5,100-square-foot exhibit provides a first-hand look into what it takes to construct an aircraft. NASA also provided sponsorship and knowledge along with several other aviation-related businesses and private donors.
While many science centers across the country have exhibits dedicated to the world of aviation – Exploration Place opened with one called Exploring Flight and Design – this $2 million exhibit offers an experience only possible by tapping into aerospace experts and resources in Wichita, known as the Air Capital of the World for its innovation and manufacturing aptitude in the aviation industry.
While Wichita is home to many parts suppliers, machine shops and aircraft manufacturing plants, none offer public tours.
Exploration Place also teamed up with local companies and leaders at the Wichita-based National Center For Aviation Training, National Institute for Aviation Research and Wichita State University’s College of Engineering to turn the city’s role as an aviation leader into an authentic experience open to everyone and interesting to all ages.
“This is going to be a lot more high-tech than many other exhibits we have at Exploration Place and we believe it’s going to skew a little bit older,” said Jan Luth, president of Exploration Place. “Young children will still enjoy it but there will be more for older kids and adults to enjoy as well.”
The 5,100-square-foot gallery has nearly 50 interactives offering industry insights and lessons on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Design interactives let you explore engineering by building a propeller, dreaming up a passenger seat and testing a landing gear concept. Build interactives allow you try out manufacturing processes, for example applying the paint and striping to an airplane’s exterior and testing your precision with a rivet gun on the wing of a private jet. Fly interactives include operating a cockpit as a production test pilot and flying an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Another layer of authenticity comes through the exhibit’s volunteers, who bring the exhibit to life by sharing their passion for aviation or years of working in the aviation industry. Presenting sponsor is Spirit AeroSystems, though all major aircraft manufacturers and many local aviation suppliers supported the exhibit through expertise, financial and in-kind donations. Exploration Place hired Ohio-based design firm Roto to create open-ended interactive experiences so you can have a new experience each time you visit the exhibit.
With the opening of Design Build Fly, every gallery in Exploration Place will either be new or have had a major renovation since the science center opened in 2000. Design Build Fly opened in December 2017 and is included with regular admission. Admission ranges from $6 to $10.50.
About Visit Wichita
Visit Wichita markets the Greater Wichita area and advocates for the city as a destination, increasing travel and tourism as a key economic driver for the city, county, region and state. Visit Wichita is led by president and CEO Susie Santo, and in 2017 travel and tourism contributed more than $1.1 billion in economic impact to the greater Wichita area.