This summer, Lando and I traveled many light years to COSI Columbus, Ohio, to see Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. Featuring costumes, models, and props from all six Star Wars films, the exhibit analyzes the similarities and differences between the technologies of George Lucas’ opus and the innovations of today. Essentially, the exhibit is divided into two areas: “Robots and People” and “Getting Around.” “Robots and People” compares and contrasts R2-D2 and C3-PO, as well as other droids in the films, with their real-world counterparts, who aren’t nearly as advanced. Visitors to COSI can design their own robots and learn how technologies like Vader’s suit and Luke’s prosthetic hand are being developed in the field of robotics and medicine. In addition, visitors can watch a short presentation in the robot theater about robotics, narrated by C3-PO and a real-life robotic engineer in uncomfortably tight, white pants. The “Moving Around” area focuses on transportation, informing visitors about flying cars and spaceships. Here, visitors can ride on a personal, air-cushioned hovercraft, similar to Luke’s Landspeeder.
The exhibit caters to both children and hardcore Star Wars fans. Young visitors will enjoy the interactive parts, in which they can push buttons, play with real-life robots, and design their own Landspeeders from building blocks. Older fans of the films will no doubt go for the costumes and props. While not as comprehensive as the exhibit at the Smithsonian (most notably, yet understandably, absent is Leia’s slave girl costume), the COSI display has many choice pieces, including Luke’s Landspeeder, Darth Vader’s suit, the Millennium Falcon, and R2 and 3-PO. Also cool to see was 2-1B—the medical droid—the blockade-runner, and Han and Chewie. One downside for die-hard fans is that the majority of the props and costumes are behind glass, which makes taking photos difficult. Shortly after Lando complained about this, a little boy repeatedly chucked a plastic construction worker’s helmet at the case shielding R2-D2, making it apparent as to why the items weren’t simply blocked off by a velvet rope. Adding to the fun of the exhibit are members of the 501st legion dressed as Stormtroopers and Clones.
Overall, while the exhibit is small, it is a must for those who missed the Smithsonian exhibit and are not frightened of swarms of loud children coughing on all of the display cases. Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination runs through September 4, 2006.