What to expect at Techniquest Cardiff – the hands-on science centre
Paid collaboration with Techniquest
We are huge Techniquest fans in our family. We’ve been regular visitors at the Cardiff Bay science centre for a good 10 years now, since my eldest was a toddler and my middle child a newborn baby when we’d regularly attend the attraction’s popular Toddler Days. That baby and toddler are now 12 and 10 and, along with their younger sibling, aged 8, Techniquest is one of those places that we still visit regularly, not least because as my children have grown so too has the way they interact with and understand the various hands-on exhibits on offer at Technquest.
Where once they would excitedly bounce around the place, pressing buttons and looking on in awe when they realised that they made cool things happens, they now have a much more focused understanding of quite difficult scientific concepts. This is thanks to more than 100 hands-on exhibits which really bring science to life, making it accessible and above all, fun – whatever your age. It’s fair to say that my husband and I have learned a few things at Techniquest over the years too.
I’m absolutely thrilled that Cardiff Mummy Says is working with Techniquest to showcase what to expect when you visit the famous attraction, as well as letting you know about the special events taking place over the Easter holidays. As well as this blog post, you can check out the Reel and Stories over on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram channel – they are all saved in the Techniquest highlight.
A little bit of Techniquest history
Techniquest opened in 1986, opposite Cardiff Castle in what many people still remember as the old gas building (now Burger King). Founded by Professor John Beetlestone and his colleagues from Cardiff University, the aim was to make science accessible to all. Indeed, I myself remember visiting the original venue as a child and it was like nothing I had experienced before, an immersive sensory experience making science ‘real’ and exciting.
Such was its success that in 1988 Techniquest moved to a pre-fabricated industrial building in Cardiff Bay, where it was home to 100 exhibits and began its educational work with schools. It moved to its current site in Mermaid Quay in 1995 – the UK’s first purpose-built science centre.
In the last 38 years Techniquest has welcomed more than five million visitors and has become one of Wales’s top visitor attractions. Techniquest is an independent registered educational charity and regularly welcomes school groups to the venue. It’s funded by various sources including the Welsh Government, admission charges, grants and other earned income.
In fact, the last couple of years have seen Techniquest continue to grow with an incredible extension and on-going refurbishments. The new origami-inspired building means there’s 60% more space and more exhibits than ever before, many of which utilise cutting edge digital technology.
Here’s what you can expect when you visit Techniquest
Currently, you need to book online in advance to visit Techniquest. Arrival times are staggered and bookings are for three hour sessions, which is a good amount of time to experience much of what the centre has to offer. When booking, you can add on tickets to the live science shows (more on that later) or purchase an X-tag card, which allows you to save data and photos from various exhibits to access later at home.
At the time of writing, admissions charges are as follows:
Adults 16+ £10.90 (£12 with donation); children 3-15 £9.05 (£10); under 3s free; concessions £9.54 (£10.50), family (2+3) £38.18 (£42). Plus 50p booking fee for adults, children, concessions and £2.50 for family.
We visited on a recent Sunday afternoon. These photos may make it look like we had the place to ourselves – we didn’t; it was nicely busy. However, I didn’t want to include other people in our coverage without their permission, so a few clever camera angles and editing means that you won’t see the other visitors!
The impressive new extension means there are currently more than 100 exhibits to explore, around half of which were new last year, and these are categorised by themes including Your Body, Material Matters, Into Space and Our World. Sometimes the exhibits move location around the building or they rotate what’s available to visitors, so if the things I’ve written about here aren’t present when you visit, rest assured they have been replaced with something just as fun.
As you enter, you’ll firstly come across the Material Matters section, where you can create your own virtual fireworks display and discover more about how molecules move plus lots more. You’ll also find the Your Body area, which, as it’s name suggests, is a great way to learn more about our bodies. Highlights here include a chair which uses a weight and a pully to allow you to lift your own body weight; a virtual operating table where you can carry out a virtual pacemaker procedure; plus a stethoscope which allows you to listen to what a normal chest sounds like in comparison to someone with asthma or someone who with pneumonia.
When in this section, you also can’t fail to miss the beautiful wooden staircase taking you up to the first floor… and a huge silver tube slide that takes you back down. You can imagine how popular this is with the young and not so young visitors.
There are two other flights of stairs between floors as well as a lift but this one seems by far the most popular way of moving about the two floors.
Retro Techniquest is the name given to the main ground floor area of the original building and it’s here you’ll find lots of favourites from over the years, such as the giant piano you play with your feet, the hot air balloon which floats up once you help the temperature get high enough, the tennis ball that shoots up into the air when you lift and let go of a big weight, plus many more. There are also smaller activities including puzzles to solve, and internal organs you can fit into the model of a human torso. There’s a huge mat and foam-plastic building blocks which form a cube but which younger children enjoy building up and knocking down, all overlooked by a big screen where you can see yourself next to dinosaurs, elephants, giraffes and other creatures.
The Low Light Area is another must at Techniquest, helping you understand how light and shadow work. The shadowbox room is great fun – you strike a pose and then see the shadow print that is left behind. We also like the heat-activated camera which shows the warmer and colder areas of your body. There’s also a huge ant colony in this area, where you can see the insects collecting leaves and carrying them through the intricate pathways of their nest.
Also on the ground floor is the water play area, which was a huge favourite of my children when they were younger. Here, you can build dams to stop the water flowing, see small boats float downstream, and stop or increase the flow of various water features. Hand-dryers are available in this area, and on toddler days there are waterproof bibs. We always used to take a spare change of clothes though because you could guarantee my children would leave this area soaked through when they were little.
As with the downstairs, the upstairs level has been extended, meaning there are so many more exhibits to explore. The floor is split into two, with Our World including a giant globe to help us understand where the food we eat comes from; a virtual floor where you can catch insects and learn all about them, plus an earthquake simulator which will have you shaking, and a hurricane simulator which is hugely popular as it blasts air into your face and blows about hair and clothing.
In Into Space you can try your hand at virtually docking a space craft (my 10 year old middle child spent about half an hour on this during our recent visit), learn more about the phases of the moon and much more.
As I mentioned earlier it’s been fascinating seeing my children’s understanding develop over the years and to watch them really engaging with the exhibits and reading the information boards detailing what is happening and why. ‘Doing’ is such a big part of learning and by making these things happen themselves they gain such an incredible understanding.
Live science shows
One of our favourite parts of any visit to Techniquest is watching the live science shows in the 85-seat science theatre. The half hour show, which changes theme every few weeks, features a series of science experiments taking place before your eyes, with explosions, chemical reactions and other amazing things wowing audiences.
We saw the Blast Off show at our most recent visit, which helped us understand concepts such as gravity, oxygen, actions and reactions, and what happens in a vacuum, as well as using a chemical reaction to create fire to power a rocket made of a Pringles can and a balloon. Coincidentally, my 10 year old is currently learning about rockets at school so this was perfect timing for him, bringing everything to life and explaining it all in a fun way.
The Easter holidays will see a new show, Superheroes, in the science theatre, which will explore how we can use science to do things that are extraordinary and almost superhuman.
Weekends after the Easter holidays will see Flight Fantastic, which will explore how humans are harnessing the forces of the natural world to overcome the many problems of flight.
The science shows currently must be booked in conjunction with an admission ticket and cost an additional £2 per person. In our opinion these are definitely worth the additional cost.
Special events and days
As well as general admission, Techniquest offers dedicated days for groups including pre-schoolers with its successful Toddler Days, days for home educating families, and after hours events for adults-only. Full details and dates are available on the website.
There’s a cloak room in the entrance area, toilets on both floors, a lift between floors, a gift shop with many pocket-money priced items, and an attached coffee shop. The building is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
How to get there
You can find Techniquest on Stuart Street, Cardiff, CF10 5BW. If you’re driving, you can park in the nearby Mermaid Quay of St David’s Hotel car parks. Techniquest is also easy to access by bus and train.
Easter holidays 2022
Techniquest will be open from 10am until 5pm every day of the Easter holidays from Saturday 9 to Sunday 24 April. Booking is open for these dates and beyond. School holidays are likely to sell out, so do book early to avoid disappointment.
The Easter holidays will see a new live science show, Superheroes, in the science theatre, which will use fun experiments to explore how we can use science to do things that are extraordinary and almost superhuman.
Find out more about Techniquest on their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. Booking is now open for the Easter holidays and beyond.
Plus don’t forget to check out my Instagram Stories and Reel over on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram channel.
Have you visited Techniquest? Do let me know your favourite exhibits in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or via Instagram or Twitter.
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