VALLEJO — It’s all about putting stuff together, said 11-year-old Nadeen Bakshi of Cordelia.
That’s whether it’s building metal bridges to span a table, as he did recently, or creating a working crane from tubing, tongue depressors and syringes, as he also did during his previous visit to the small hands-on science program that has taken up residence in a former Vallejo community center.
“Every Saturday, we do something different,” Bakshi said of the trips he and his mother, Sameeyah Bakshi, try to make to the Lawrence Hall of Science’s Inventor’s Lab whenever possible.
His mother found out about the 9-month-old program while collecting material she publishes in her newsletter for families who are looking for activities.
“It is awesome. There is a lot of room for growth (for teaching the sciences in the Solano County area),” Sameeyah Bakshi said. “We try to get here once a month.”
The program was started in May 2012, after the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley completed a study on which Bay Area counties were the most underserved when it came to science education, said Reyna Hamilton, the Inventor’s Lab director.
Solano and Napa counties were determined to be the best location for the lab. Talks with Vallejo landed the lab in the Norman C. King Community Center, which was previously slated to be closed down.
Hamilton and her staff first focused on getting the attention of Vallejo-area families and are now making a concerted effort to reach out to schools, libraries and youth-oriented community groups in the Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville areas.
“Now, about 75 percent of our attendance is from the Fairfield and Suisun City area,” Hamilton said.
Reaching out includes mobile visits to various locales. On a recent visit to the Vacaville Town Square Library, the lab offered an electronics connection workshop for two dozen children on how to make scribbling machines out of a paper cup, felt-tip pens, a battery-powered motor, tape and wires. Its next trips to the area will be to the Suisun City Library, which will host the Lab at 3 p.m. Wednesday, and to the Ulatis Cultural Center Library in Vacaville at 1 p.m. April 3.
The lab offers a free drop-in program that is open from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Children can take part in workshops that teach them how to design and build hydraulic cranes, battery-powered scribbling machines, wind turbines and electric motors. Or they can simply go on their own to build small metal bridges, create structures from small wooden planks or design a flying machine they can test in an 8-foot-tall wind tunnel.
Karla and Lonnie Shipman brought their sons from Vacaville for the first time recently. They loved it, they said.
“We want to get our boys into science because they like building things,” Karla Shipman said.
The lab offers a series of engineering design challenges on a monthly basis to inspire children to design, build and test their own solutions.
Last month, it was designing cityscapes with cardboard, corks, string and tongue depressors. During the upcoming spring break, which starts March 25 for the lab, one of the challenges will be creating zip-line gondolas and designing an amusement park with Legos, motors and computers.
Hamilton said she never ceases to be amazed with the youthful creativity.
“Kids are great for this because their thinking is a lot less restrictive than adults,” Hamilton said.
To learn more about the Inventor’s Lab, call 651-7161 or go to www.lawrencehallofscience.org/invent.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.