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Robotic bugs invade The Health Museum[1/23]


BY Alex Wang [ January 21, 2010 at 02:26:25 ]

Opening Jan. 23, new exhibit Backyard Monsters features hundreds of insect specimens,

9-foot robo bugs tower over visitors

HOUSTON—Things will be going buggy soon at The Health Museum in Houston’s Museum District. The museum’s new exhibit, Backyard Monsters®: The World of Insects, opens on Saturday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, May 9. The new exhibit’s giant robotic insects along with interactive learning displays and one of the world’s largest private specimen collections will give The Health Museum visitors a bug’s-eye-view.

The exhibit of robo bugs is so realistic and true to life that it has been endorsed by the Entomological Society of America. The colossal moving creatures that make up Backyard Monsters include an 11-foot wide tarantula, a 16-foot long tomato caterpillar, a 15-foot wide paper wasp, two fighting beetles—each 9-feet high and a monarch butterfly with a 19-foot wingspan. The exhibit has an interactive capability that allows visitors to control specific movements in some of the animatronic insects. Experience them all in natural settings under a gossamer dragonfly with a 10-foot wingspan hanging overhead. Each figure contains a system of animated robotics that enables it to exhibit lifelike movements.

“This exhibit is a world where insects tower over humans and blades of grass are the size of trees,” said Jon Iszard, president and CEO of The Health Museum. “While giant animatronic bugs and hands-on displays will amaze and entertain our guests, Backyard Monsters is an educational exhibit, one that dramatically demonstrates the importance of insects in our lives.”

There are also numerous hands-on educational-play stations in the Backyard Monsters tour. “Bug’s Eye View” allows a visitor to view their friends and family through an insect’s compound eyes. “The Better to Eat You With” shows how insects chew plants, sip nectar and suck blood.

Other fascinating displays include “Assemble an Ant” and “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” that proves that looks can be deceiving. At “Robo-Bugs,” visitors can control six-legged robotic creatures with a remote control.

Specimen cases containing hundreds of exotic insects and arachnids from around the world make up the third major component of the exhibit. Visitors can see the world’s largest beetles and bugs with unusual features such as walking sticks. Insect preservation, camouflage and insect anatomy are also included in the displays.

In addition, visitors will meet Professor “Buzz” McFly, the exhibit spokesperson. As the director of the Institute of Insect Research, Professor McFly, a human-sized fly, will talk with guests and prepare them for what they will see in the exhibit. The Professor will give them an overview of the giant insects, the specimen cases and the hands-on interactives. He speaks with a slight “buzz” while using his flat screen “chalkboard” TV as a visual aid.

Garner Hold Productions, the exhibit’s operator, created each robotic insect to be a recreation of a living specimen so that lifelike colors and movements could be captured. To ensure that the giant bugs were scientifically accurate to the smallest detail, Dr. Arthur Evans, resident entomologist of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was retained as a consultant and The San Diego Natural History Museum assisted in a recent upgrade in the exhibit.

Visitors who are Naturally Wild about bugs can learn even more about Backyard Monsters from a Zoo Keeper from the Houston Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop. Come learn, chat and share your knowledge about bugs with the Zoo Keeper. Visitors will also learn about how they can bring items they have found in nature and trade them for items from the Naturally Wild Swap Shop collection at the Houston Zoo. You don’t want to miss this. For more information, visit www.houstonzoo.org/swapshop

Dates when zoo keepers will be in the exhibition from 2 to 3 p.m. are:

Saturday, Jan. 23; Sunday, Feb. 7; Sunday, March 7; Saturday, April 10; Saturday, May 8

The exhibit will be on display in The Health Museum in the Sue Trammell Whitfield Gallery, Jan 23 through May 9. Visit the Web site at www.thehealthmuseum.org for information on exhibit-related special events, science shows and demonstrations.


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