May 5, 2016, will mark the opening of a new and exciting exhibit at Chicago’s famed Museum of Science and Industry: an in-depth and interactive look behind the curtain at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
DARPA was created in 1958 at the peak of the Cold War in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the world’s first manmade satellite, which passed menacingly over the United States every 96 minutes. Tasked with preventing such strategic surprises in the future, the agency has achieved its mission over the years in part by creating a series of technological surprises of its own, many of which are highlighted in the Chicago exhibit, “Redefining Possible.”
“We are grateful to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry for inviting us to tell the DARPA story of ambitious problem solving and technological innovation,” said DARPA Deputy Director Steve Walker, who will be on hand for the exhibit’s opening day. “Learning how DARPA has tackled some of the most daunting scientific and engineering challenges—and how it has tolerated the risk of failure in order to have major impact when it succeeds—can be enormously inspiring to students. And for adults, we hope the exhibit will serve as a reminder that some of the most exciting work going on today in fields as diverse as chemistry, engineering, cyber defense and synthetic biology are happening with federal support, in furtherance of pressing national priorities.”
The 5,000-square-foot exhibit features displays and activities for all ages, including:
- digital work stations where kids can build their own virtual robots and learn about which kinds of limbs, sensors and other components will allow their creations to perform specific tasks, from disaster relief to manufacturing to caring for the elderly
- a large scale model of the Sea Hunter, DARPA’s recently christened 132-foot submarine-tracking ship, designed to cruise for thousands of kilometers and months on end without a single crew member aboard, with video of the vessel’s first open-water speed trials
- a look at the small, sophisticated, implantable electrode arrays that show promise for the treatment of traumatic brain injury and are already being used to enable neurological control of prosthetic limbs
- one of the world’s most sophisticated robotic arms, as light as a biological arm and complete with its own power supply, now being manufactured for use by people living with amputation
- kid-friendly interactive displays revealing where, in our everyday lives, DARPA-developed technologies are at work, including the many components of your smartphone that are dependent upon DARPA breakthroughs
- a magnified look at the intricate beauty of today’s astonishingly powerful microelectronic chips, which are heralding a new age of artificial intelligence
- an “air legs” exoskeleton that provides the lower limbs of soldiers or others with rhythmic bursts of power to increase endurance and decrease injuries during long hikes with heavy loads.
The exhibit prominently features Atlas—the 6-foot-2-inch humanoid robot designed to navigate rough outdoor terrain and provide assistance after natural disasters—and Spot, the robotic dog.
Attendees can also traverse an immersive, 100-foot timeline of DARPA-supported technological breakthroughs, from unmanned aerial vehicles and x-planes to chip-scale atomic clocks, manmade lightning, and an Ebola vaccine grown in tobacco plants.
The DARPA exhibit will run from May 5 through September 5, 2016.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense