Kids focus on Ferris wheels at CAC’s Engineering Fest

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

(Published on Feb. 23)

Melissa Degroot had not visited the Chicago Architecture Center before Saturday, Feb. 23.

But she picked a good day to go with her four kids—all weekend long the center is hosting the seventh annual engineering festival.

It’s a festival aimed at teaching kids how and why the manmade world in Chicago works the way it does

“These kids love building things,” Degroot said, as she watched her kids build model Ferris wheels.

The theme of the engineering fest focused on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, so kids could design Ferris wheels, play with staff—the building material used to cover the exposition’s temporary buildings—and learn about trusses and arches, among other things.

Sophia Monroy and Gabriel Monroy work on a Ferris wheel at the Chicago Architecture Center. Photo by Jesse Wright

By noon Saturday, hundreds of parents and kids had visited the festival and hundreds more are expected through the end of the weekend.

Angela Esposita, the senior manager of education for the CAC said the festival started as a way to end national engineering week and as a way to get kids interested in the built world and focusing this year’s festival on the 1893 exposition made sense.

“We’re celebrating the 125th anniversary of the fair,” she said. “Well, actually, that was last year but the exposition opened a year late, too, so we’re right on time.”

Organizers had planned the exposition to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the New World in 1492.

Besides building materials, kids had access to professional critics.

“After they build Ferris wheels, the kids have structural engineers test the strength of their wheels and give feedback,” Esposita said. “Access to experts is what we’re all about.”

Besides hands on crafts, kids also got tours of the CAC and outdoor tours had been planned, though the rain cancelled those plans. Still, Esposita said the event is a great way to get parents in the door to see what the center can offer throughout the year.

“This is a small sample of what we do all year long,” she explained. “This is a good way for parents to get a taste of what the Chicago Architecture Center does.”

The event is free for members and $6 for non-members and kids under 14 get in free.

In May kids will compete in the Newhouse Architecture and Design Competition and the registration deadline is April 18. The CAC also offers family build time Sundays, 10-11:30 a.m.

The center is located at 111 W. Wacker Dr. For more information, visit their website at architecture.org.

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