From flying snakes to bee habitats, the latest exhibits at the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke give visitors the opportunity to explore the university’s findings through a series of interactive opportunities.

The museum and Virginia Tech have collaboratively developed four new museum exhibits inspired by the work of students and faculty at the university. Through a unique partnership, Virginia Tech has the opportunity to share its findings with the public, while museum visitors gain hands-on experience with innovative technologies and exciting scientific discoveries. Photos and short biographies provide insight into the scientists behind the work.

Virginia Tech’s participation is managed by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and the College of Science and is facilitated by the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts (CENI). As part of ICAT, CENI oversees a network of liaisons that promote and nurture relationships between Virginia Tech and regional educational organizations. Liaison officers work with both the university and the respective educational organizations, regularly spending time in the physical spaces of both organizations. In addition to the Science Museum of Western Virginia, CENI has established liaison relationships with the school systems in Montgomery County, Floyd County and Radford City.

Phyllis Newbill, Associate Director of Educational Networks for CENI, serves as the liaison to manage the relationship between Virginia Tech and the Science Museum of Western Virginia, connecting faculty, students and staff from both organizations to create new opportunities for collaboration and maintain the partnership.

“The relationship is rich and growing. It’s really a win-win, ”Newbill said. “The museum receives new exhibitions highlighting current scientific research. Virginia Tech researchers have access to the museum’s 60,000 annual visitors – a diverse audience, local and public – so their research can have a wider impact. Four new exhibitions opened this year, in addition to the three already present in the museum. Others are in the works now. We’re excited to highlight more research and researchers from Virginia Tech. “

New museum exhibits include:

“Can snakes fly?” “

Based on the research of Jake Socha, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, and his collaborators, this exhibition explores the science of gliding animals. Visitors can experiment with a wind tunnel to see how different shapes react to drafts. With support from ICAT, Socha and her team used the Cube’s motion capture capabilities to better understand the locomotion of flying snakes. This exhibition was funded by the National Science Foundation.

“Virginia Tech Helmet Lab”

Highlighting research from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, museum visitors can put on a helmet to simulate impact studies done in the lab and see and touch the inside of many different styles of helmets. Led by Stefan Duma, director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, and Steve Rowson, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, the lab studies the effectiveness of helmets in protecting the head from extreme forces. Barry Miller, the lab’s director of outreach, worked with museum staff to create an exhibit that brings together science and sport in an engaging and active way.


Showcasing the master’s thesis work in Creative Technologies by Renee Alarid, Associate Director of Creative Services at Moss Arts Center, this exhibit was created to help children better understand bees’ contributions to the economy through audio and video that explore their life and habitat. Visitors can get closer to the geometry of the beehives as the projected bees enter and exit the hive.

“Microorganisms: the good, the bad and the beautiful”

This exhibition is the result of the work of Dana Hawley, professor of biological sciences, exploring how microorganisms affect songbirds. Microscopes, samples and photomicrographs allow museum visitors to magnify the tiny and fascinating world of microorganisms. This exhibition was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Three other exhibits created by researchers at Virginia Tech – “Plasma,” “MirrorCraft” and “Dense Space” – have been installed in previous years and are still available for visitors to explore.


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