Ball Floaters

March 2014

Current location 
Ball Floaters is currently located on the first floor. This summer Ball Floaters (and the entire AirPlay exhibition) will be located in the Porter Community Room.

When did Ball Floaters first come to the Montshire?  
Ball Floaters, part of the AirPlay exhibition, was designed and built by the Montshire and opened in 1999.

Why did the Montshire create this exhibit? 
To help Museum visitors understand the properties of air. The idea for Ball Floaters came from the childhood memories of one of the exhibit developers, that of his dad balancing a ping-pong ball on air coming out of a shop-vac hose. Ball Floaters is extraordinarily simple in concept--a blower moves air through a pipe and out through two or three clear tubes connected with "T"s. Small foam balls can be balanced on the airstream coming out of the tubes, so that they float.

When the exhibit prototype was tested in the museum, visitors were lining up to give it a try, so the configuration with four stations came about. The yellow balls are special foam balls used to practice playing ping-pong; the museum purchases them by the case so that there are plenty on hand to replace them when they wear out.

Did you know?  
The AirPlay exhibition was built as part of the first round of the TEAMS exhibitions collaborative, funded by a NSF grant to five (later seven) museums, to help them learn to develop high-quality interactive exhibitions suitable for display in small museums.

When AirPlay was developed, we built one copy that would travel to other museums, and later, one version that would stay at the Montshire. The traveling version is still traveling throughout the United States!

Favorite stories? 
Watching the different ways visitors experiment with the exhibit. People try things we never imagined--it seems there are endless possibilities.

Have you tried this?   
Try getting the balls to drop down into one tube and pop out of another; or balance more than one ball on a stream of air; or balance a ball halfway up the clear tube. Let us know about your discoveries--post them on Montshire's Facebook page, or email us.


Montshire Museum of Science Engage the Senses