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Rolling Away at the Rolling Ball Museum

July 25, 2008

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July 25, 2008 – ( 1 month in Korea) We went to a fantastic museum inside the War Memorial of Korea on Friday. It’s called the Rolling Ball Museum. The exhibit was fascinating and focused on different structures made to roll balls around in some amazing ways. Think of the marble and chute toys where you put your marble in at the top and watch it roll its way down the chutes and slides to the bottom. Now imagine an entire room filled with nearly 100 rolling ball creations using balls ranging in size from marble-sized to tennis-ball-sized.

We really were mesmerized by the rolling ball clock that actually kept accurate time. Some of the displays also included bouncing balls that would bounce and then land in their appropriate chute to continue the cycle. Every time the balls bounced and landed where they were supposed to, we’d all exclaim, “Wow!” Even though we knew it was planning to land on its mark, each time the ball actually made it we felt a thrill of excitement. Oh, how easily we can be entertained!

However, the best part of this museum was that it is almost entirely hands-on. Kids can touch, roll, watch and play with most of the displays on exhibit. To cut down on the spread of germs, the museum even provided squirts of hand-sanitizer before entry to ensure a germ-free play time. How thoughtful, ne? (sorry. I’m likely going to be saying and writing “ne”or “ ね” for a while as I assimilate to Korean culture from Japanese culture. It’s been just over one month since we left Japan and my brain is resistant to let go of recently learned behaviors from Japan.)

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As for the Rolling Ball Museum, the play section had more than 70 rolling ball structures that kept my three kids TOTALLY entertained for 2 solid hours. If something can keep a 2 year old busy for that long, you know it’s a good thing. There was also a place where kids could use blocks to build their own rolling ball creation and another section had Automata creations on display.

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This area was especially exciting for me because of research I’d been doing about Karakuri Ningyo, the automaton tea-carrying doll in Japan that is credited with being Japan’s first humanoid robotic invention. I wrote more about this in my article for AppleSeed magazine’s March 2009 Robots issue titled “Japan’s Amazing Robot Kingdom.”

The automata here at the museum were built from paper, wood and other synthetics and had a motor connected to them so kids could push a big red button and watch the item move in funny ways. My two-year-old spent 30 minutes just pushing all the buttons. She was in heaven!

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The cost was kind of high, but after seeing how engaged my children were, I felt it was worth the expense and was very educational for them.

It reminded me a lot of one of our absolute favorite TV shows in Japan called “Pythagorean Switch.” We watched it every day and marveled at the incredible contraptions that were made to roll balls. My kids and I get our fix for watching “Pythagorean Switch” by checking out clips on You Tube now.

Check it out on YouTube, too. It’s really fascinating, and I bet you’ll become addicted to watching it just like we have! Each fabrication is even more elaborate than the next and will keep your jaw dropping towards the floor.

If you like this video, you can easily search for more. Search for it under its Japanese pronunciation “Pitagora Suicchi” and you’ll find many versions posted on various video sites.

You can also try your hand at making your own rolling ball creation like this person has done:

Another collection of great “Pitagora Suicchi” videos is posted on Daily Motion.

If you’d like to know more about Japanese TV for kids, check out the official NHK site for Pitagora Suicchi. You can even purchase a DVD of the show.


From → Japan, Korea, Seoul

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