Arup Community Engagement

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Arup Community Engagement

Project overview

The imagination station at the V&A

  • The Imagination station is a free pop up activity that runs every day for six weeks over the school holidays in the internal courtyard of the V&A.
  • The purpose of the activity is to create a fun and enjoyable experience for families as well highlighting the creativity and problem solving involved in engineering.

For the last two years Arup engineers have designed a structural engineering based building toy for children and families along with the V&A families team.

In 2016, the activity was based on mathematics and encouraged children to play and explore with polyhedron shapes as a means of filling space. The repeating nature of the geometry meant that structure could be continuously expanded on and the only limitation to the height of the towers was the reach of the child (or the parent that they were instructing!). This meant that children could explore engineering principles such as creating stable bases so they could built tall or creating piers so they could create bridge like forms. The feedback from visitors to the museum was very positive which lead to a similar activity being run again in the summer of 2017.

To reflect the folded form of the gallery, the activity consists of diamond shaped folding cardboard plates and circular connectors that can be joined together to make forms and structures reminiscent of origami shapes. No limitations were set of the activity so the children, and some parents, could either work out the defined repeating patterns that would be able to create larger structures or let their creativity run wild to create any shape that they could imagine. This resulted in a number of tunnels and domes as well as numerous space ships, aeroplanes, boats and even aliens!

Another aspect of the gallery is the carefully designed lighting, including the oculus at the centre of the new courtyard that lets light down into the new gallery. To reflect this, Arup structural engineers were joined by Arup lighting designers to add elements of lighting to the activity. This manifested in a series of cut-outs in the activity pieces to create dramatic shadows as the natural summer sunlight shone through the structures. A selection of the pieces also had reflective mirror card on one side so that the shafts of light coming through openings in the structures could be reflected and scattered to add to the visual impact.

For both years, while the activity ran every day for the six weeks and was overseen by facilitator from the V&A team, each Friday young engineers from Arup went along. Their role was to help families with the activity as well as answering questions about engineering as a whole and discussing their experiences with a view to inspire young people to pursue engineering.

Overall the activity provided the children with an insight into the fundamental principles and creativity behind engineering as well as creating a dialogue between them and practicing young engineers all while having fun!

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