Friday, October 03, 2014

Discover the revamped area for 8s and under in W5 - music, animation, water & a Fiat 500

A revamped Discovery zone opens in W5 on Saturday 4 October.

Aimed at under 8s - though plenty of fun for under 42s too! - the brightly coloured area on the second floor is tucked in beside the ClimbIt structure.

It's amazing to see kids fearlessly climbing on and through the petals on the enormous sculpture, untroubled by being several storeys up in the air, but feeling safe and cocooned by the netting that envelopes the structure.

Quite a feat of engineering as the timelapse video of the ClimbIt build shows.

Inside the new Discovery area, little visitors find a town with 16 themed areas. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the shiny Fiat 500 that's sitting inside a faux Donnelly Group garage.

A brand new model was ordered and then mechanics stripped out the engine, gearbox and even the empty fuel tank.

The suspension was changed so there would be no way tiny fingers could get trapped, edges were smoothed, seats were raised, and holes were securely plugged. But what's left is a doorless car that kids can climb into and drive, pressing buttons and flashing lights in complete safety.

Elsewhere Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be very impressed with the mandatory water feature (with very cute waterproofs for budding messers) and several wooden railways with lots of extra track.

There's a health centre (with a smelling display that will elude by missing olfactory sense), a boat, a farm, a music studio with flashing lights and foam guitars and a stop-go animation workstation that's going to have a long queue behind it when doors open to the public on Saturday morning.

Elsewhere in W5 it was good to nose around and discover that there have been major updates since my last visit with extended family.

Local MLAs should head along to the opinion polling exhibition and think about the merits of renewable energy. Budding crane operators can have a go with a mini-Samson (or Goliath). And the car building/racing track and musical staircase are still there.

W5 opens Monday-Saturday at 10am and Sunday at 11am. My advice would be to go early if you can and enjoy the less crowded hands-on exhibition areas.

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