Learning Cuves

Hot Wheels exhibit helps kids understand the physics of motion ... aww, heck, they're fun
Volunteer Cole Compean, 15, releases Hot Wheels vehicles down a ramp.Julia Moore

ASHLAND — A grin plastered on his face, 5-year-old Aiden Iles kept a sharp eye on several Hot Wheels cars as they blurred past him on a downhill track.

"Go, go, go!" he cheered as they sped by him to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it finish.

If you go

What: Hot Wheels Weekend

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today

Where: ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, 1500 E. Main St., Ashland

Cost: $9 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under, and adults older than 65

The racetrack was just one of several ScienceWorks exhibits devoted to playing with the miniature toy cars Saturday, part of the museum's fourth annual Hot Wheels Weekend event that concludes at 5 p.m. today. Organizers said the cars and stretches of plastic track are teaching tools just as much as they are play things.

"It encourages you to think in a different way," said ScienceWorks Executive Director Chip Lindsey. "Most things that change the way you think, it starts with your hands."

Lindsey said the cars can help familiarize children with motion, speed and general physics. The car-conscious, hands-on exhibits included the downhill track and a separate jump exhibit where cars received a speed boost from flowing water on the track. There was also the track section that ran through a tub of "Oobleck," a cornstarch and water compound that took its name from a Dr. Seuss story.

"If (your car) goes really fast, it'll go right through it," said volunteer Castilla Andrus, adding that if the car doesn't have enough speed, it'll sink into the muck.

Attendees also had the option to customize their cars with stickers and other art supplies. Reef Starnes, 9, held his car up proudly, showing how he'd added lasers, wings and a cape.

"It has an X on it because it's extreme," Reef explained.

Reef's father, Kevin Starnes, said he thinks the attraction to toy cars has endured because of the simplicity that goes with the pastime.

"They roll it, it goes forward," Starnes said. "It teaches a lot, in my opinion, about physics, how things work."

It wasn't just the future gearheads who found interest in the event. Amy McCaskie's 5-year-old daughter, Coral, found plenty to keep her busy as she snapped pieces of track together.

"She really loves building, so I think she's going to be into this part of it," McCaskie said.

Lindsey said he stepped up to the executive director post just before Hot Wheels Weekend two years ago. He said he knew he'd landed in the right position because of the public's response to the event.

"(It's a) celebration of all that great thinking we did when we were kids," he said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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