By RON HAYES
Palms West Monthly
Posted Nov. 12, 2019
WEST PALM BEACH — Kate Arrizza, CEO of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, flashed a big, welcoming smile to nearly 100 boys and girls visiting from Palmetto Elementary School.
And then she asked the sort of question you don’t expect to hear in a science center.
“Who’s your favorite superhero?”
Holy Science, Ms. Arrizza! Don’t you know human beings can’t fly, run faster than a locomotive, or leap tall buildings in a single bound? Science says so!
Nevertheless, most of the girls shouted “Wonder Woman!” while the boys favored “Batman!” “Superman!” or “Spiderman!”
“Well, today, you’re going to learn how superheroes came to be, and you’re going to test to see if you have the power to be a superhero,” Arrizza promised the students.
And if they learn a little science along the way, well, that would be super, too.
Through April 19, the science center is hosting Hall of Heroes, an interactive exhibit that uses the history and myths of Wonder Woman, Superman and other classic comic book characters to entertain and educate.
“In our mission to open every mind to science, we strive through our exhibits to make sure learning is fun,” Arrizza explains, “and Hall of Heroes is the perfect way to get kids to find out more about the physics and chemistry behind superpowers like thermodynamics and X-ray vision.
“Science and imagination go together to help us advance and shape our future.”
At the entrance to the science center, a larger-than-life-size action figure of Wonder Woman meets visitors.
“This is the first museum to ever have Wonder Woman,” Arrizza boasted. And once inside, equally impressive models of Superman, Batman, Iron Man and The Hulk are available for selfies.
Meanwhile, at Palm Beach International Airport, a replica of the famed Batmobile from the 1960s television series invites arriving passengers to the Hall of Heroes.
The center’s exhibits are divided into four disciplines that underlie all superpowers:
• Powers Of The Body analyzes strength, sight, flight and speed;
• Power of Mastery explores tactical analysis;
• The Gadgets exhibit celebrates specialized tools;
• The Elements deals with water, electricity, earth and fire.
Makayla Anicet, 10, a 5th-grader, decided to test her strength by gripping a lever and squeezing as hard as she could.
Was she a Trainee, Sidekick, Hero or Superhero?
“I got Superhero,” she said.
She demonstrated. This time she was only a Sidekick.
“It’s rigged,” she announced.
Sofa Bran, 10, tried to leap a tall building in a single bound by jumping as high as she could to hit a series of illuminated buttons rising up a wall.
She registered seven feet.
“It’s all very fun,” Ariel Navarro, 11, said. “I only got trainee strength, but it was still fun. The exhibits are all so creative.”
Hall of Heroes is geared for students in elementary through high school, but adults will find much to amuse and inform them, too.
Four sets with nostalgic props, old TV sets, radios, comic books and posters trace the history of superheroes from the Golden Age of comic books in the 1930s to the Modern Age of graphic novels and epic films.
The exhibits also offer the kind of fun facts that make you exclaim, “I didn’t know that!”
Did you know the energy released in a single lightning strike is equal to the food calories in 216 Big Macs?
Did you know that in 1955 a tornado scooped up a girl and her pony and dropped them 1,000 feet away? Unharmed?
Did you know the first time Clark Kent used a phone booth to change into his Superman costume was on Nov. 28, 1941? That’s when a cartoon called “Mechanical Monsters” was released.
In addition to favorite superheroes, the boys and girls of Palmetto Elementary School also had favorite superpowers they’d love to possess.
Ariel Navarro would like to move things with his mind: “So I could say, ‘Come here, food,’ and not have to get up and get it.”
Sofa Bran wants teleportation: “So I could go to Guatemala, where my grandma is.”
Makayla Anicet wants to read minds.
Even teachers want superpowers.
Judi Ackerman, a teacher with more than 28 years’ experience, didn’t miss a beat.
“We teachers think teaching is our superpower,” she said.
Pictured above: Right, 5-year-old Ajay Maharaj mimics The Hulk as his father holds him and his cousin Zachary Rampersad on a recent visit to the “Hall of Heroes” exhibit at the South Florida Science Center. The interactive exhibit, which runs through April 19, uses the history and myths of popular superheroes to entertain and educate. Photo by Gene Nardi/Palms West Monthly