There's a lot of science under the hoods of our cars.

A new exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland looks to turn the key to spark the curiosity of kids and kids at heart.

Not only does "Vroom! A Car Adventure" explore the science, engineering and math that make vehicles go, but the exhibit also highlights the role that Northeast Ohio plays in technological advancements.

What's particularly cool about this exhibit, which is included with a science center ticket, is that it was totally curated in-house, spokesman Joe Yachanin said.

Some of the displays are on loan from other museums, while others — like a giant contraption that carries Matchbox cars to the top so they can then race down a winding track — were created by science center workers.

And some are courtesy of local companies including Firestone in Akron, Timken in Jackson Township and the University of Akron.

The tire-related Firestone display explores self-driving car advancements and even includes a cool airless prototype tire. Timken's display includes some of its bearing technology that helps our vehicles move from gear to gear with relative ease and quiet.

The University of Akron has three of its open-wheel formula race cars on display. The cars are the creation of Zips Racing, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Team that's part of UA's College of Engineering.

“The Zips Racing team is extremely excited about having three of our cars featured in 'Vroom!' ” said Zips Racing team captain Ezra Malernee, a senior mechanical engineering technology major. “We all remember going to the science center as kids, having a blast and learning a lot. It’s a great feeling to know that our cars will help other kids discover more about automobiles.”

Guests can climb in the driver's seat of the 2017 race car parked at the entrance to the exhibit for a photo or two.

Inside the large hall, the shell is off the 2012 car so visitors can look at the engine to learn firsthand how parts work, like the differentials, cylinders and pistons.

The aerodynamics of the 2013 race car are illustrated by an augmented reality wall, where guests can use silhouettes of vehicles in various shapes and sizes to see firsthand how air flows gracefully around them — or doesn't.

“I’m thrilled that all the hard work the students put in year after year building these race cars and competing in them is being acknowledged in such a visible way,” said Daniel Deckler, the team’s faculty adviser and professor of mechanical engineering. “The students on the Zips Racing team are some of the best student engineers in the country and this is a great way to showcase their incredible talents. I’m grateful to the Great Lakes Science Center for including the team and these cars in their latest exhibit.”

This will be the 30th year for Zips Racing. The 30-member team is expected to compete at Formula SAE Michigan at Michigan International Speedway in May.

Other stations in the exhibit include one where guests can build their own cars and race them down giant Derby Dash ramps. There is even an interactive garage area complete with sound effects where kids can try changing a tire, replacing the oil and installing a muffler.

A fun exhibit includes a race against a robotic arm to complete a circuit maze. Spoiler alert: the robot always wins, and shows off with a victory dance.

“A large part of Cleveland’s reputation as a manufacturing center is linked to the automotive industry,” said science center President Kirsten Ellenbogen. “This exhibition allows us to not only explore the marvels of STEM in automotive design and engineering, but also to collaborate with our inspiring corporate partners such as Timken, Rockwell Automation and Lincoln Electric. Our regional strength in automotive work has allowed us to create an exhibition that is unique and very special for our guests.”

 

Craig Webb, who wishes the exhibit included the mystery of the Check Engine light, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.