Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World for its innovation and manufacturing aptitude in the aviation industry. But while Wichita is home to many parts suppliers, machine shops, engineering firms and aircraft manufacturing plants, none offer public tours. You can get an insider’s look at what goes on at these local companies, though, at the Exploration Place exhibit Design Build Fly.
Our interactive science center and our local aviation community teamed up to turn the city’s role as an aviation leader into an authentic experience open to everyone and interesting to all ages. The $2 million exhibit is a one-of-a-kind collection of genuine aircraft parts and assemblies that visitors can explore up-close for a behind-the-scenes, hands-on look at how airplanes are designed, built and flown.
The 5,100-square-foot gallery has nearly 50 interactives offering industry insights and lessons on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They are open-ended interactives, so you can have a new experience each time you visit the exhibit.
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.
The younger crowd will have a blast at the kid-size foam airplane, seeing how vacuum toilets work by watching yellow scarves and brown puff balls they put into the toilet travel through clear tubing or signing up for one of 15 educational programs complementing the new exhibit and taking place in the family-friendly CreatorSpace.
The older crowd will enjoy climbing into the 10-foot section of a 737 fuselage that is now a 10-seat theater showing short films produced for the exhibit on engineering, flying, testing, advanced manufacturing, time-lapse of production, maintenance and restoration.
All ages will love the chance to sit in a full-size mock-up of a private jet’s cockpit and cabin once used at tradeshows. Take a selfie while posing as a celebrity sitting in the posh cabin or climb into the cockpit for a flying interactive experience. Volunteers bring the exhibit to life by sharing their passion for aviation or years of working in the aviation industry.
Design Build Fly is included with regular Exploration Place admission, which ranges from $6 to $9.50 and annual memberships start at $20.