Monday, April 2, 2012

Star Party at the H.M.S Beagle in Parkville

By Mr. Rogers

H.M.S Beagle Science Store
180 English Landing Drive, Parkville, Missouri, 64152

telephone: 816-587-9998


Cost: Free

Parking: Plentiful on the night we were there.

Age Appropriate: If they are old enough to point to the moon they could enjoy it. But be warned, kids younger than 10 will have problems since the telescope eyepieces are usually far off the ground. I had to hold my kids up to all the telescopes, just a minor inconvience. If I go again I will probably bring a milk crate for them to stand on.

I have to say this was pretty darn cool.

This wasn't a KC Dads outing (it was just my family) but it easily could be one. The Star parties take place every month from April thru November and a schedule with start times and a list of the various objects to be observed can be found on The H.M.S Beagle website.

We didn’t know what to expect but found it to be well worth the trip to Parkville. Our evening began with visit to the H.M.S Beagle store where they sell a wide range of science items. The kids loved wandering the store looking at all the kits, fossils, rocks, beakers, toys and equipment. We especially like the rocks, but what kid doesn’t. We ended up purchasing an actual fossil and a beautiful selection of rocks of various colors and textures as we passed the time waiting for the event to begin.

At 7:30 Mr. Leif Bahl started the program in the store with a slide presentation discussing what he hoped to show us. I was pleasantly surprised by the talk, it was very informative and gave me a new appreciation for hobby of star gazing. Did you know that line between the dark and light side of the moon was the best place to see the moons features, cause that is where the shadows are longest. Makes sense but I bet you never would have thought of it. He went on to explain a host of other things about nebula and star clusters and Messier objects. He was good with the kids and answered all of their questions. Many of which consisted of “I have seen the moon on my way to school” and "The Mars rover took a picture on my birthday”. (those knuckle balls were thrown at him by my two darling rocket scientists). At about 8:15 we headed out to the gravel space next to the parking lot as Leif set up the telescope on it’s first target.

You are welcome to bring your own telescope, which three other individuals chose to do. The multiple telescopes meant there always seemed to be something different to look at. We simply walked between telescopes and waited in line to see what the owner had it pointed at.

The various equipment was also interesting and appealed to my inner Tim Allen. One guy's telescope was mounted with a lasor beam to help in aiming (so very cool). And I don't even know how to begin to describe the astronomy app on his iPad, all I can say it was freak'n awsome.

All in all we saw Mars Venus, Jupiter, the Orion nebula, the Pleiades star cluster, and the moon of course. My 5 year old was into looking at everything she could, which foretells a promising career in Astrophysics I am sure. My 8 year old, however, was so busy playing tag with the other children in the gravel that he only looked twice in a telescope and at some very lame objects to boot. You can lead a horse to water…..

The lame objects happened to be Mars and Venus. I don't mean to be disrespecting our nearest neighbors. It was kind of cool seeing them with my own eyes but, unfortunately, they just look like little balls. I guess I was hoping make out the rover on it or something. In contrast, I was floored by the clarity of the mountains and craters on the moon. You see the moon almost every night but the telescope really makes it pop. The biggest thrill was seeing three of the actual moons of Jupiter with my own eyes. You could also just barely make out the lines of color streaking across Jupiter’s surface. Had we stayed a little longer we could have seen a fourth moon appear from behind it but it was getting late and the kids needed to get home. We left around 9pm

Food Options: The event takes place at dusk so you likely will have already eaten but there are many nice places nearby to grab a nice dinner/dessert should you prefer to eat in Parkville. (which I have not done but hope to one of these days) Snacks for the little ones will come in handy when watching the slide show and waiting for the telescopes to be moved between objects.

If you have any interest in star gazing this is definitely a must see event. The staff at the H.M.S Beagle are friendly and helpful both in the store and behind a telescope. I had a telescope as a kid but having it in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and where to look makes all the difference in the world. Before you make your trip out to Parkville, be sure to check the website to get an idea of what objects are in the sky and be warned that clear skies are a must for this event (But they do post make-up dates).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Activity: Kansas City Auto Show

Kansas City Auto Show

Location: Bartle Hall Convention Center, 301 West 13st, KC MO 64105

Cost: Adult Tickets: $10, although some coupons are out there. Kids: Free for under 7. Parking is additional as well so budget accordingly. I believe it is about 10 bucks.

Age appropriate: all

Things at Bartle Hall can be pretty cool if you get just a bit adventurous and go. Sure, you would think that a bunch of toddlers wouldn't want to go to an auto show but you would be wrong. If you put some serious thought into it, then it is clear that an auto show is practically an amusement park to anyone under 6. Big motors, race cars on display and the chance to push the buttons on over 1000 vehicles without anyone telling you to stop. It's practically Disney.

And as cool as it was to see the newer models of cars getting ready to roll off the line and into our hearts, the true greatness of this event were the oddities that surrounded it. Well, that and the corvettes because those things are still bitching. I made the kids get out so I could sit in it alone and dream that one day, I would own one. And have hair. Both would be awesome.

But the things that surrounded the auto show is what I think made it a truly great experience for both the kids and the adults. Let's start with the U.S. Army that had a section of the floor. Look, I know that they are trying to recruit my youngsters and I'm fine with that. I'm fine with that because they had a life sized video game where my 5 year old held a life sized M-16. You want awesome, there is your awesome. And for the record those things are heavy. It turns out that my daughter is a pretty good shot as well. The Army section was well done and geared probably toward the young teen, but we enjoyed it as well. Along with the shooting gallery they had a football toss station, free golf towels for dad and at the end of it they gave the kids dog tags. We called them all patriotic necklaces.

There was also a museum of sorts of past Army vehicles that included a hummer, a racing motorcycle and various WWII vehicles. We do love our history at KCDADS. One of the kids did get stuck in a tanker truck whose cab was 6 feet off the ground. Entertainment followed when said father had to get up in there and get her.

Of all the exhibits for cars though, one of the best done was the Jeep section. They actually had an obstacle course. You would ride in one of the Jeep models (they drive) and then proceed to see all that the jeep could do. From going over logs to driving up a 30 degree incline to simulate a mountain. I found it very well designed and promoted. The kids loved it although there is a height requirement on it. However the younger kids did enjoy just watching the older kids go on it.

I also want to give a big thumbs up to the Kansas City Royals who set up an exhibit that included the worlds biggest baseball as certified by Guinness World Book of Records. I didn't get the stats on this thing, but it's probably over 13 feet high. We did get yelled at a bit when one of the kids disregarded the vaunted red ropes and touched the baseball. But let me just say this: the kid is less than 2 feet tall, what kind of damage is she going to do to a baseball? Seriously? I'm not saying that we should have touched it but I am saying that I could understand how a 2 year old would want to. It's a huge baseball, how could you not want to touch it.

Now for a few words of caution though for those who are thinking they might want to go. I would head down on one of the off days, which means not a Saturday. We had fun because it wasn't that crowded and it was easy to keep track of our kids running from one car to another. Second, bring a sack lunch and do not eat there. The only place to eat at the actually show was a Quizno's and I found that 23 bucks for a couple of sandwiches, drinks and chips was a bit to much for not that much food. So save some money and just brown bag it. There are tables to the side where you can sit and enjoy your food.

Also, bring some extra water. The space is large and there aren't many fountains around so be smart and just bring your own. Finally, beware the red velvet ropes and your kids. Easy to bypass and it's easy for dad to get distracted while drooling over the brand new minivan that he has his eye on. The price is a bit high for what we usually go to with the 10 buck ticket and then parking on top of that. I hate paying parking but we had fun despite that.