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Young brains behind new ‘Amazing Brain’ exhibit celebrate its debut at Science City

‘The Amazing Brain’ exhibit opens at Science City

"The Amazing Brain" exhibit opened at Science City at Union Station on Thursday to great fanfare.
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"The Amazing Brain" exhibit opened at Science City at Union Station on Thursday to great fanfare.

Science City’s new $1 million exhibit opened to the public Thursday, but the first people who got to try it out were the brains behind it: kids from the Grandview school district.

“When I saw the exhibit I felt surprised, said 11-year-old Mariah Hayes. Why? “It looks almost exactly what I imagined. It was wonderful.”

The students, in the district’s FOCUS program for gifted students, won Burns & McDonnell’s fourth Battle of the Brains competition in November 2017. They beat out 820 other project ideas from more than 7,000 students in 55 school districts, including high school entries.

The Kansas City engineering firm helped turn the fourth- and fifth-graders’ ideas into the new “The Amazing Brain” exhibit.

At Union Station on Thursday, the students were treated to a celebration with Grandview cheerleaders, drumline members and honor choir.

”I think the kids really have learned that when you put your mind to work and you work as a team, great things can happen,” said Vicki Adams, one of the teachers in the FOCUS program.

“It was a very exciting thing that Grandview came to the top,” said Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell. “Generally, it has been the more affluent districts that have risen to the top.”

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Amaris Dykes (left) and Hannah Morgan checked out one of the 14 new interactive displays at Thursday’s opening of “The Amazing Brain,” a $1 million exhibit at Science City at Union Station. Amaris, a fifth-grader, was one of the students who helped create the exhibit. Tammy Ljungblad tljungblad@kcstar.com

Kenny Rodrequez, Grandview’s superintendent, said the selection was “a huge deal” for the relatively small school district south of Kansas City. The team, which included students from all five Grandview elementary schools, also earned the district a $50,000 grant from Burns & McDonnell.

“When we were announced as the winner … I said this is going to be one of the biggest things to ever happen to the school district,” Rodrequez said.

“Our kids just went nuts. And there were a lot of shocked faces around the room. It was the first time we had entered, and these other districts had entered every year.”

Since their project was chosen, the students have worked with Burns & McDonnell and Science City professionals, who have donated more than 3,800 hours to design, build and transform their idea into reality.

“The Amazing Brain” is Science City’s largest indoor exhibit and is the venue’s fifth exhibit from the Battle of the Brains program.

The 2,800-square-foot interactive exhibit contains 14 pieces, including Ready, Set, Recall, a demonstration of your brain calling your memory network into action; The Nose Knows, which tests how well your brain interprets smells; and Lie Detector, to measure whether you can fool or be fooled.

George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station, said that since the launch of Battle of the Brains in 2011, attendance at Science City has increased by 120 percent and membership has reached a record 10,000 family households.

The designing and building of “The Amazing Brain” was “very complex,” Guastello said. “I’ve seen the whole process,” he said. “But when I saw it finished, it literally took my breath away.”

Last year, Union Station formalized Science City’s partnership with Burns & McDonnell, which committed to invest up to $3 million over the next five years for a total investment of more than $8 million. Included are two more Battle of the Brains competitions, with one starting this fall.

Science City

Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. 816-460-2020. www.unionstation.org/sciencecity





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