Days Out: Thinktank, Birmingham
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Sunday 26 November 2006
Birmingham's Millennium Point may look uninteresting, but four of its floors are taken up by the extremely inspiring Thinktank, the city's science and technology centre. Forget tired exhibits in glass boxes with dry factual information - in Thinktank's gallery every display features an engaging, interactive element. So you need to be a do-er, not a watcher, to get the most out of your time here.
Young children will adore Kids City, where they can perform dental treatments on Mum and Dad, change the oil in a car and sell fresh fruit and veg at a market stall. Next door, in Things About Me, seven to 11-year-olds can learn all about their bodies, with games such as Supermarket Sweep sneakily teaching them about nutrition, and video games helping them to learn how to cope with hormonal changes. Older kids and teenagers, too often ignored by museum curators, will find plenty to entertain: they can make life-or-death decisions, explore a space station and race against the clock transporting chocolate around Britain.
Escape the giggling girls and boys in the grown-up areas, where squeals will be coming from 40-year-olds instead. Solve a diamond theft using pollen and fibre matching, DNA profiling and fingerprinting. Who knew flowers could play such a useful role in criminology? Take part in a real-life, video-recorded hip replacement operation, a technique pioneered in Birmingham. Scalpels and swabs hardly get a look in as scary-looking drills and frighteningly large mallets take centre stage. Thinktank also looks at the past with examples of impressive machines, such as a Spitfire and Birmingham city tram. My favourite is the rusty, old Starley Rover Rational Tandem bicycle, designed in 1891 by my relative, John Kemp Starley. It looks similar to the accident-prone penny farthing, but is far superior, thanks to Starley's engineering advances in bicycle safety.
A licensed café serves hot and cold food.
Fully accessible, with disabled toilets and baby-changing facilities. Guide dogs welcome. Induction loops available. Disabled parking.
Open daily 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm), every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Museum only: Adults £7.95, children 3-15 £5.85, concessions £5.95, family ticket (two adults, two children) £23.
How to get there
Thinktank at Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham B4 7XG (0121-202 2222; thinktank.ac).
By rail: Moor Street station is 10 minutes' walk. New Street and Snow Hill train and tram station are 15 minutes away. By road: Car and bicycle parking available.
By foot: 10 minutes from The Bullring shopping area.
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