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101 Inventions that Changed the World exhibit opens at Leonardo

Published: Tuesday, June 25 2013 3:55 p.m. MDT

Hands-on activities including Explore with Legos are included in the "101 Inventions that Changed the World" at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The alphabet, air conditioning and atomic bomb come together as three of 101 Inventions that Changed the World, The Leonardo’s new exhibit that opened June 15 and will run through Sept. 15.

Having already premiered in the Madatech National Science Museum in Israel and been shown in other museums throughout Europe, this is the first time the exhibit has been shown in the U.S.

According to The Leonardo's communications manager Bryton Sampson, the museum, named after and inspired by its namesake Leonardo Da Vinci, was founded “to inspire people to innovate, create and be curious.”

The current exhibit fits that description.

The inventions, selected by a panel of experts from science centers around the world, are described as “historical punctuation points in our story that explore not only the inventions themselves, but also suggest the reasoning behind their development and their consequent effect on humankind,” according to the museum’s website.

The list spans from as early as 2,600,000 B.C. — when stone tools were first used — to 1993 with the debut of the Global Positioning System.

To compile the 101, these experts “broke history into some different historical periods, like the Renaissance, the Industrial Age. And they all picked 10 from each of those periods,” Sampson said. From there, Grande Exhibitions, a company that creates and markets traveling exhibitions, looked at each list, compiled them and determined each invention’s rank by importance, instead of date.

While the exhibit itself outlines significant inventions in the history of the world, the method of presenting the list is not lacking in innovation or creativity.

A 40-minute surround sound and sight presentation takes the audience through the inventions. With more than 6,000 different video files, 40 projectors and a big black room with numerous floor-to-ceiling walls, the exhibit offers an interactive experience.

Counting backward from 101, each wall displays different pieces of information — location, inventor, description and date — for each invention, while also supplementing it with lots of color, images, video footage, sound bytes and music matched to the invention being featured.

Participants can be surrounded by stars and learn about the space station, then 30 seconds later hear someone on the electric guitar as different models cover the walls. The transitions are seamless and each section is short enough that even young children can stay occupied.

“Even if they’re not picking up the information, at least they’re being entertained,” Sampson said of kids who come to the exhibit. “But hopefully they are learning something along the way.”

The exhibit continues in the next room where more than half of the inventions, real or replicated, are on display, with computer screens available to offer even more information on each invention.

Beyond that is a room filled with Legos — No. 77 on the list — where everyone is invited and encouraged to play.

“You’re inspired by all the inventions you see in there, and then you can come in here and make something of your own,” Sampson said.

On the exhibit, he continued, “I would just encourage everyone to come and see what these things are, and to start thinking about it themselves, what inventions they have seen on the list.”

For more information on 101 Inventions that Changed the World, the Leonardo or a complete list of the rest of the 101 inventions, visit www.theleonardo.org.

Kate Sullivan is an intern at the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She is a student at Brigham Young University. Contact her via email: ksullivan@deseretnews.com

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