COMMANDING attention from the crowd with its modern architecture and transparent navy walls illuminated with green and blue lights that resemble a futuristic city, one cannot help but wonder what mysteries and journeys lie beyond the gateway of SM Science Discovery Center (SDC) in SM Mall of Asia.

According to Hans Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, Inc., SDC aims to add a new dimension to malling experience as it guarantees to educate, entertain, and amuse visitors of all ages with its technology-based and interactive galleries.

As one enters the SDC, a 15-meter dome planetarium, standing tall at the center of the galleries, instantly greets your way to an out-of-this world journey and exploration. Adjacent to it are the interactive galleries of Grossology, Life Clock, Transportation Nation, Imageport, and the Smart Media City, sponsored by Smart Telecommunications, Inc. SDC’s second level features Robot, Inc., City Science, Virtual Reef, Spaceship Earth, and the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Center.

The ultimate “star” treatment

The Digistar Planetarium is the main attraction of the SDC. The Planetarium is 15 meters high and can seat 158 people. It uses digital surround sound and state-of-the-art projectors which transmit three-dimensional (3D) images to a dome-shaped ceiling that allows the audience to experience real-time space travel and star-gazing.

“The planetarium creates environments that completely immerse the audience in images and sounds that will both entertain and educate them,” said Jenx Cuenca, SDC Operations supervisor.

Aside from star-gazing, the planetarium also boasts of movies endorsed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Institute of Sciences. These include The Search For Life: Are We Alone, which documents how people seek the possibility of other life forms outside our galaxy, Darkstar Adventure, a story about Subrah and her robot helper who are in a voyage of discovery to planet Bekenal; The Future is Wild, a story about an international team of researchers who have been looking into how animals and plants will evolve over the next five to 200 million years; and the Mystery of the Christmas Star which seeks a scientific explanation about the star of Bethlehem which the Magi followed.

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As the country’s first science discovery center, people wonder what is its difference and new offerings compared to other science exhibits and planetariums present in the country.

“The difference of the Digistar Planetarium with the other planetariums in the country is that it uses 3D images with digital surround sound, and it can also predict movements and activities of celestial bodies for the day and even in the coming years. It is fully equipped with everything you need to know,” Cuenca said.

Gross anatomy

Another popular attraction in the SDC is the Grossology gallery which offers a fresh approach in studying the human body. Instead of the usual showcase of human anatomy and physiology, the Grossology presents the filthier aspect of the body through interactive games.

According to Cuenca, other than the Digistar Planetarium which is already unique in itself, they also want SDC’s other galleries to be atypical in terms of the topics that they present.

“The Grossology gallery presents the anatomy’s ickier aspects, which are usually not tackled in other science centers,” she said.

An example is the “burp man” which illustrates how burping occurs by letting visitors fill the burp man’s stomach with soda, and showing how it triggers burping. Different sources of body odors, such as the mouth, feet, underarms, and anus, are also showcased in a nearby exhibit, which allows visitors to smell unknown odors and guess which part of the body they come from.

Other games include “Urine: The Game” which demonstrates kidney action in a game where visitors will have to segregate different compounds that pass through the kidneys such as red blood cells, white blood cells, water, and ions, such as calcium, potassium, and sodium, to form urine. A grossology trivia contest allows visitors to compete against each other in answering grossology questions.

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Cyber spectacle

Some of the technological and architectural feats today are featured at the Robot Inc., Transportation Nation, and City Science galleries at SDC’s second floor.

The Robot Inc. gallery showcases replicas of world-renowned robots. The gallery’s main attraction is an area where visitors can play bump cars through remote controlled robots.

Transportation Nation, meanwhile, displays some of the latest modes of transportation, such as Sinag, the first Philippine solar-powered car, wheelsurf, a single-wheeled vehicle with the driver’s seat inside the wheel, and segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric transportation device initially designed for the physically disabled. The gallery also features a flight simulator, where visitors can pretend to be pilots flying virtual planes.

“Just like the other galleries, SDC plans on expanding Transportation Nation through adding more vehicles and updating the flight simulator,” Cuenca said.

Architectural feats, in the meantime, are highlighted at the City Science gallery with models of the tallest buildings in the world. Scaled at 1:50, some of the buildings featured are the Petronas towers in Malaysia, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, and the Burj building in Dubai.

Aside from the buildings, the rollerball technology, a mechanism that stabilizes a building through placing a giant ball underneath a building, similar to that of the Main Building, is featured through an earthquake simulator found also in City Science.

Call of nature

The SDC also features galleries that aim to increase awareness of the environment and natural sciences like the Life Clock, Virtual Reef, and Spaceship Earth.

As a two-level futuristic structure, the Life Clock, not a real clock, allows guests to know life facts that chronicle the earth’s existence and actual happenings inside the SDC via four large graphic panels.

The Life Clock’s second level looks like a miniature solar system structure with celestial bodies revolving it, and its main feature is the time capsule.

The time capsule is a computer console that lets guests send e-mail messages to the future, making you receive mail in 2010 that you sent in 2008!

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The Virtual Reef, on the other hand, is a digitized tour of Philippine coral reefs highlighting the wonders and beauty of marine life in the Philippines.

Guests are transported to life under the sea as they traverse a mini-tunnel where animated images of marine creatures are projected on the walls of the tunnel, with reflections of sea lights and sounds of the deep in the background.

Accompanying one’s journey in the Virtual Reef is a projected digital member of the deep sea community, controlled by a complex set of computers and dubbed by a knowledgeable persona, to tell everything one has needed to know about marine life.

“Mr. T, a cartoon fish, is a Titan fish and is one of Verde Island’s natural inhabitants and native to the coral reefs of Batangas. He can answer your questions about the sea and how basically it is to live like a fish,” Cuenca said.

Last in our list of galleries is literally bringing one down to earth, Spaceship Earth, a mini-earth with projected images on its spherical interior, depicts the current condition of the earth. With emotional scenes that demonstrate how seriously the environment needs cooperation, the gallery tugs at the heart of every human being. But it does not end at showing that Spaceship Earth is in pretty bad shape; rather, it opens eyes and inspires to find ways in which humans can help.

As the first science discovery center in the country, SM’s SDC offers the Filipinos the chance to love science and technology, and be aware of what our delicate earth needs.

“We see the SDC as a means of extending knowledge, and helping the community and environment. We want everyone to be involved in the preservation of our world, to be educated, and to love science and technology. In doing so, we appreciate what life has to offer,” Cuenca said.

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