Thursday, December 12, 2013

Singapore Science Centre: Titans of the Past Exhibition & Science Street Fair

Dinosaurs have a natural tendency to fascinate young children. The topic sits on a border between the realms of fact and imagination, on the dividing line between mystery and discovery. Our older daughter is a fan of dinosaurs. Since she started reading, we've noticed her gravitation toward books about these amazing animals.

When we heard about the Titans of the Past – Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre, we decided to make it a family date. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that there was free admission to the Science Centre that week in conjunction with the Science Street Fair from 8th to 11th November.

Throngs of people at the Science Centre today... car park is FULL!

We reached the Science Centre after lunch. Upon alighting from the cab, we were able to sense that something special was going on: there was a long queue of cars waiting to enter the carpark, and throngs of people everywhere. On our way to get our tickets to the Titans of the Past exhibition at the Annexe building, we managed to get a preview of the outdoor stalls of the street fair. We got the 2 adult and 2 child family package and picked up some snacks from the souvenir shop before making our way through the crowded walkways to the dino exhibit.

Think he's referring to the sauropod skeleton in the main hall.... that one was HUGE!

Booth from which we can buy coupons to use at the Science Street Fair.

Stopping by the souvenir shop for some snacks.

Once inside the Annexe, we were greeted by a dark, mysterious atmosphere, transporting us into the Jurassic era. First up was the Triceratops exhibit where we were awed by an impressive collection of skulls and reconstructions. A documentary screening explained to visitors the landmark study that showed how the skulls of the species developed from the juvenile, to adolescent, to adult stages.

Hypothesis, evidence, theory, fact... learning about the scientific method.

Initially thought to be different species, a new study found that they were skulls of the same species! They simply changed with age.

An animated video narrated by two very adorable baby mechanical Triceratops.

This is not a scene from the movie 'Alien vs Predator'. Armoured skulls were possibly used by these beasts to duel each other for mating and territorial rights, much like antelope and rhinoceros beetles do today.

Life-sized replica of mother and baby duck-billed dinosaurs.

Interactive display where the press of a button causes the dinos to call out to you.

The section featuring the carnivores saw impressive fossils and reconstructions of the notoriously reputed T-Rex! The exhibit was full of information regarding their behavioral characteristics, complete with robotic mock ups of bone-crunching feeding sessions, deafening roars, and moving parts. This must have been intentionally created to invoke the wildest imaginations of children about the fearsome nature of these beasts.

Beautiful fossil replica of a ferocious beast!

Reading about famous T-Rex finds.

Bone crunching jaws with sound effects upon the press of a button. 

Skulls of various carnivores side by side for comparison.

This huge mechanized display roars at visitors as they pass by.

The floor of the main hall was littered with visitors sitting in groups watching a large screen documentary about the dinosaurs. The animations describing the animals in their environments were so realistic. Different kinds of dinosaurs were covered, from the fearsome predators, to the gentle giants, and even the dragons of the air. The size of the screen made the viewers feel like were really in the lost world.

Learning about paleontology digs and methods of preservation.

An engaged audience...

Enjoying the documentary with life-like animations in the main hall.

Tyrannosaurus rex - this fella's name is Stan.

Gigantosaurus carolinii, a carnivore comparable in stature and reputation as its more famous cousin, the T-Rex. It can be differentiated by the larger, three clawed 'arms'.

Spanning almost the entire hall was a huge fossil reconstruction of a large Sauropod dinosaur. In the far end were a some children's activity booths. A real hit with the girls was a sand pit made out to resemble an paleontology dig site. The children were handed brushes to delicately remove fine sand to reveal dinosaur 'fossils'. Many children didn't understand the 'delicately' part, and sand was in the air and all over the place. This didn't stop the kids from having a lot of fun pretending to unearth the next big find.

Impressive sauropod skeleton.

The giants dwarf the people... imagine what it would've been like to have walked alongside them!

Being paleontologists for a day!

Look what I found!

Amazing how excavations were able to pick out fossilized poop!

Other fossil displays

Kids activity stations: $5.00 for a pair of Styrofoam dinosaurs to colour and keep the artistic ones busy.

Around the corner from the main hall was the Ice Age exhibit, with an impressive reconstruction of mammals from that period. There were the life-sized  Woolly Mammoths, but just as intriguing were the moving models that seemed to have been from a page torn out of some Star Wars comic book. A close description of some species might be a cross between a giant, bipedal Capybara and and a furry rhino. Oh well, at least I tried...

Here kitty kitty kitty... yikes!

A cross between a tortoise and a dog? Ancient Armadillo?

The Mammoth towers over us...

Jar Jar Bink's long lost cousins... even the starry backdrop matches the Star Wars theme!

All manner of shapes and sizes...

Exiting from the Annexe we met up with friends to explore the Science Street Fair booths. We heard about the ice-cream making activity and as natural sweet-tooths, the girls were eager to participate. First up, we walked through the car-boot bazaar. Vehicles lined the tentage covered car-park with items for sale seemingly spilling out from their open boots. There were all manner of goodies such as potted plants, toys, second-hand books, clothes and much more. We picked up some craft materials to use as gifts, and the kids were treated to rides on the merry-go-round and viking ship.

The car park and driveway outside the Annexe building was transformed into a Go-Kart race track for the older children!

Coffee Hive snacks and drinks... yes it was a crowd worthy of a Sunday afternoon.

Street Fair booths lined the driveway. There were many interesting science-related game booths here, but we did not manage to try many of them.

Car boot sales! Anyone thought we'd be shopping at the Science Centre?

Uncle Ringo never fails to please... here the girls ride the Viking Ship!


We finally found the ice-cream making activity on the second floor of the Snow City, apt considering that ice-cream needs to be cold, right? Well, this was no ordinary ice-cream. It was going to be made at -196 degrees Celsius, way lower than the temperature of snow.

Collecting tickets and waiting for the next session in anticipation.

The stage is set for a fun day at the ice-cream lab!

We arrived at the booth, which was actually four stations in a cosy seminar room, and waited for next session. When it was time, only one adult was allowed to accompany the kids, and the lot fell to Daddy. Most of the other children were old enough to participate without their parents.

The 'Scientist' introduces himself and conducts a safety brief.

The facilitators were education officers from the Singapore Science Centre, and they wore lab coats and name tags with funny names to add to the fun. At the first station, the topic was ‘ice’, and the children were taught about its properties such as melting points and density. The effect of salt and coffee powder on the melting point of ice was creatively demonstrated too.

Ice is interesting!

An introduction to the concept of density: as the ice melts, it seems to 'drip' through the oil layer into the water layer. Green colouring is added to enhance the effect!

Here we have three ice cubes. The one on the left is covered with curry powder, and the one on the right is covered with salt. Which will melt the fastest?

To make popsicles, stick your drinks into a bucket full of ice and add salt. Salt depresses the melting point of ice, making it 'colder'.

A little pressure and salt can 'glue' two ice cubes together. A string is trapped between the two cubes to show how strongly fused the ice-cubes are.

The second booth was the highlight. The children were showed how to make ice-cream in a demonstration. The ingredients used included sugar, heavy-cream, and of course, liquid nitrogen! Flavouring and chopped fruits are easy add-ons. Recipes can be found easy via a simple Google search, but doing it on the spot and tasting it immediately is even more fun. Instead of using liquid nitrogen, an alternative was to place a smaller bag of the cream – sugar mixture into a larger bag containing ice cubes and salt. A good mix and we get the final product in minutes.

And now what we've been waiting for...

First, mix the cream and sugar...

We took a vote and it seemed more kids like chocolate to vanilla... so chocolate essence is added.

Stir and mix everything together...

Add the magic ingredient! Liquid nitrogen!

While waiting for the ice-cream to be ready, a series of demonstrations using liquid nitrogen were done at the third station. Daddy had the opportunity to participate in the fun when he was asked to place an inflated balloon into a container with liquid nitrogen.  The result: the air in the balloon contracted so much the balloon shriveled up as if there was not air in it. When it was allowed to warm up, the balloon regained its inflated shape. Other interesting demonstrations showed how fragile objects like flowers became when frozen by liquid nitrogen. The finale was simply explosive…

Add one scoop of liquid nitrogen...

The rapidly evaporating nitrogen expands quickly and inflates a balloon.

Poof! What just happened?

The final station had demonstrations using solid carbon dioxide, otherwise known as dry ice. Quickly subliming CO2 expands, and can be used in a variety of interesting experiments. Here, the gas is used to make large soap bubbles that the kids have fun holding in their hands!

A series of plastic flasks and tubes bubble carbon dioxide through a thick soap solution, making egg-like bubbles!

The soap bubbles were actually quite viscous. We could hold them in our hands and pass them around.

It was finally time to eat our very own chocolate ice-cream. The children were all delighted and had to be reminded to be patient and wait for their turn. Based on minute donations from the girls, Daddy said the ice-cream tasted pretty good. However, the best part was knowing that we made it ourselves using a novel method.

Everyone queue up now...

Yummy in my tummy...

After thanking the facilitators and making our way downstairs, we found the adults relaxing at the café near the entrance. It was approaching dinner time and we had so much fun that the time seemed to speed up. Some home-made tuna sandwiches we brought along came in useful, and the kids gobbled these down quickly. We called a taxi for a long ride back to the east, catching a nap on the way.

The snack shop at the Snow City.

The Titans of the Past exhibits will be at the Singapore Science Centre till 23rd February 2014, and is highly recommended for dino enthusiasts young and old! Details can be found on their website:

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