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5 fun facts about Science Centre, which will get a new home in 2020

Published on Aug 19, 2014 6:52 PM

The good old Science Centre - a must-go place for school excursion trips - will move from its current Jurong Town Hall site, come 2020.

The new Science Centre will be built on the north shore of Jurong Lake, near the Chinese Garden MRT station. It will be the "jewel" of the expanded Jurong Lake Gardens, which will combine the existing Chinese and Japanese gardens and Jurong Lake Park, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Sunday.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat will be setting up a committee to “re-imagine and develop” the new centre.

We look at 5 fun facts about the Science Centre:

1. It turns 37 this year

The centre opened on Dec 10, 1977. It was first conceived of way back in 1968 when the idea of museums as informal education centres was still untested. The idea was to have basic science topics and industrial wonders such as oil exploration explained to students in exhibits, in the hope of inspiring them to take up careers in the field.

Believed to be the first centre of its kind in South-east Asia, it was estimated then to cost more than $9.5 million to build. Over the years, some 29.5 million students have visited the centre.

2. It could have been located in city centre

Unknown to many, Dempsey and Fort Canning were once identified as sites for the Science Centre. But it was eventually given a 6ha land in Jurong, which offered more room for expansion than the two city-centre locations.

3. It looks like a spaceship? It's actually inspired by pyramids

A competition was organised by the Science Centre Board in 1970 to design the centre. Young architect Raymond Woo, who won the competition, said he had thought of Egypt’s pyramids to come up with its spaceship-like look. The design was aimed at enticing young scientists and schoolchildren.

4. It was supposed to move earlier

In 2008, then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan announced plans to build a new Science Centre in the Jurong Lake district. It was revealed that the centre would be sited next to the Chinese Garden MRT station.

But plans were put on hold because of budget constraints. More recently, work on the new centre was deferred because of the foreign labour crunch which led to several public construction projects being postponed.

The delay, however, did not stop the centre from refreshing its exhibits and facilities.

In June this year, it launched a new children’s science centre. The 3,000 sq m wing has features to encourage learning through interactive play, such as a 7m slide for kids to learn about gravity, a sandpit where they can play palaeontologists by unearthing fake dinosaur bones and a flight simulator.

It is also planning other new attractions such as a digital planetarium and a virtual aquarium.

5. It has a time capsule that dates back to 1973

Did you know there's a time capsule lying somewhere in a quiet corner of Science Centre?

The Science Time Capsule is kept above ground in a quiet corner of the Kinetic Garden behind McDonald’s restaurant at the centre. It was sealed in 1973 to commemorate the laying of the centre’s foundation stone. Since then, it has been opened three times - in 1983, 2001 and 2012 - with new mementoes added each time.

The 1.5m-tall cylinder is a metre in diameter and has 10mm-thick stainless steel walls. Before it is sealed, air is pumped out of the capsule and replaced with nitrogen to extend the lifespan of the contents.

The items were selected based on their impact on Singaporeans’ lives.

Some of the items entombed in 1973 include a Hewlett Packard calculator - a ground-breaking invention then - a cassette recorder, portable television, and a Rollei 35 miniature viewfinder film camera that was made in Singapore for the global market.

In 1983, items added include Seiko's television wristwatch, which had live broadcasts on an LCD screen embedded in the watch face, Tiger Balm, six cans of curried beef and Sarsi bottles.

In 2001, Creative Nomad Jukebox and a Digital IXUS camera were among the mementoes added.

The capsule was opened again in November 2012, and sealed in 2013 with 70 items added. Among them a StarHub mobile broadband USB stick, models of a concept car from BMW Asia, and the packagings of two ice-cream flavours invented by Nanyang Polytechnic students.

How many items are there in the time capsule now? More than 700!