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Tech Museum of Innovation

The upper floors of The Tech Museum feature hundreds of exhibits

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In 1978, the Junior League of Palo Alto realized that the Silicon Valley, known throughout the world as the center for technological advance and innovation, needed a museum dedicated to technology and science. The San Jose Junior League agreed and joined the endeavor. In 1990, “The Garage,” as the museum was first called, opened in San Jose’s former convention center. The 20,000-square-foot display space, featuring exhibits co-produced with the likes of Motorola, AT&T, Elo Touchscreens and Protozoa, was an instant hit.

Eight years later, The Tech Museum of Innovation moved to its permanent address in San Jose, California, into a 132,000-square-foot building with an iconic azure-colored dome, designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. The Tech has become the premier ambassador of the Silicon Valley, giving the 5 million visitors who have passed through its doors glimpses of the technological wonders of one of the most inventive regions on the planet.

“Science on a Roll” greets visitors at the Park Avenue entrance. Resembling a giant computer chip, this 16-foot-tall, 12-foot-long audio kinetic sculpture has been nicknamed "The Imaginative Chip" by the museum. The ground floor of the museum features the Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater, a café and gift shop. The state-of-the-art IMAX theater, which seats up to 295 people, features a 9,000-square-foot screen. Café Primavera offers a variety of pasta dishes, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. The Tech store covers 2,000 square feet and is stocked with souvenirs, books and technological gadgets.

The upper floors of The Tech Museum feature hundreds of exhibits, most of which are custom made for the museum, including the following permanent exhibits:

• The Tech Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery

• The Tech Challenge Gallery

• The Tech Awards Gallery

• The Tech Virtual Test Zone

• Green by Design

• NetPl@net

• The Spirit of American Innovation

• Life Tech Gallery

• Innovation Gallery

• Exploration Gallery

The Department of Genetics at Stanford University has teamed up with the museum to present a hands-on exhibit about genetics, as has NASA for an interactive exhibit about the Hubble Space Telescope. Other popular galleries include the earthquake platform and the jet pack simulator. The Tech Museum also hosts blockbuster traveling exhibits such as "Body Worlds 2 and The Three Pound Gem" and "Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future."

While the museum's exhibits are extensive and impressive, they are only one aspect of The Tech Museum’s stated mission to “engage people of all ages and backgrounds in science and technology experiences that educate, inform, provoke thought, and inspire action.” Educating youth is a big part of this mission and The Tech Museum offers free field trips for California school children. Free museum membership is also offered for school teachers. Nearly 120,000 of the museum’s 500,000 visitors per year are school children.

As part of the organization's mission, The Tech Museum also operates ongoing programs to award and promote technological excellence. The Tech Challenge is an annual team design competition that challenges youth to undertake solving a real-world problem through the scientific process. In partnership with Galileo Learning, the museum operates a summer camp for 4th to 8th graders, with numerous interactive classes and activities centered around science and technology. The museum makes its 4,000 square feet of laboratory space available for after school labs and field trip labs as well.

Aside from all the programs, events and exhibits offered at the museum, The Tech Museum also offers online programs such as lesson plans and activities, as well as many community outreach and partnership programs. With a firm commitment from the museum’s corporate partners and the community, as well as from the museum’s 90 permanent employees and more than 400 volunteers, The Tech Museum continues to inspire the innovative spirit that has made the Silicon Valley a leader in science and technology.

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