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October 24, 2015

Franklin Institute debuts revamped SportsZone exhibit

Visitors invited to explore the intersection of sports and science through interactive experiences

Exhibits Franklin Institute
102415_SportsZone Contributed Art/The Franklin Institute

Racetrack where guests at the SportsZone can measure their speed against virtual competitors, including Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

It's no secret that Philadelphia is a proud sports town with a reputation for zealousness bordering on obsession. Accordingly, the city's most interactive museum, The Franklin Institute, has devoted a space specifically to cultivating that passion among local youth, with an emphasis on the science of athletics.

This weekend, the museum officially opened the doors to its revamped SportsZone exhibit, a popular attraction during a 15-year run that now boasts 21 activities to capture the advancements of sports science since the turn of the century.

Divided into three parts – Ready, Set and Go – the $3.1 million exhibit allows visitors to get hands-on with how pro athletes prepare for competition, how they use the equipment specific to their sport and how their bodies flex and exert energy to perform on gameday.

In the Ready exhibit, visitors can calculate an energy goal based on their own activity level and physiological needs, explore the biomechanics of bones and ligaments, learn how to stretch for the optimal warm-up, and receive tips on how to stay hydrated.

SportsZone visitor takes an energy test to calculate what his body needs to perform at peak levels (Contributed Art/Franklin Institute).

The Set exhibit takes a look at how material and design innovations have helped equip athletes with state-of-the-art tools from lighter hockey sticks to efficient bikes on all terrain. In a helmet test, visitors learn about the importance of protective equipment through a demonstration of the force of impact on side-by-side model heads.

Finally, the Go exhibit lets visitors run wild in tests that examine the physical dynamics of the body as athletes use technique to gain an advantage. On a 40-foot-long track, visitors can test their time against a choice of virtual competitors including Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews, marathon runner Dawn Grunnagle, inline speed skater Brian Talley, and even, for a boost in confidence, the Phillie Phanatic.

Philadelphia fans will recognize many familiar faces and voices, from Merrill Reese recordings pumped out of a series of benches to new Wall of Fame additions Nerlens Noel. Other new exhibit features include a pitching cage offering high-speed camera analysis of your throwing motion and displays of all the latest gear to keep pace with constantly evolving equipment.

The 3,600-square-foot exhibit was redesigned by the Art Guild of West Deptford, New Jersey, with primary funding from James J. Maguire, Jr., the Maguire Foundation and Philadelphia Insurance Cos.

As always, The Franklin Institute strives to increase the accessibility of science in the Philadelphia community. By the looks of it, the new SportsZone exhibit figures to be a home run.

Learn more about the exhibit here