Jim Pyers is a tinkerer.
“I like to delve into science,” he said.
Surfing the Internet in his free time gives him all kind of ideas of something new to build, like a laser table, a display on the history of the computer chip and a wind tube. The projects come to life in his backyard workshop in Roseville, and Pyers searches for a new home for each where children can get their hands on them.
“Everything I build down there are my toys,” he said. “That’s what I like to play with.”
Do any of those projects sound familiar? That’s because many of them now live at the World of Wonders Science Museum.
In fact, Pyers has built almost all of the exhibits at the museum where he volunteers. One of them (a solar display) inspired a new event that just might turn into an annual favorite.
Saturday marked the first ever Solar Day. Pyers got to the museum in the early morning to set up a wide array of solar powered gadgets including a fountain, a water heater, water purifier, and a miniature racetrack.
Volunteers cut up pizza boxes then lined them with foil and plastic screens to create personal solar ovens. They served up plates of nachos with cheese melted by the sun.
A repurposed frensel screen from a television was positioned to focus the sun to 770 degrees. That’s hot enough to melt a penny, and twice as hot as what’s needed to pop popcorn. A few volunteers were monitoring a cast iron skillet with a small batch of popcorn heating up.
Children sported welding goggles and focused magnifying glasses over small blocks of wood to create solar carvings.
Pyers was pleased to see so many children working with their hands and getting their minds working. He builds his projects so kids can have an opportunity to expand their minds.
“How many kids do you see taking things apart and seeing how they work?” he said. “We’re losing so many great minds, and we don’t have to.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.