For the love of science: Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center
Monday, June 8, 2009

WHEN SM Mall of Asia opened after some delays three years ago, skeptics warned that it would have difficulty attracting crowds since the sprawling shopping complex is located at the far, south-most end of EDSA.

Actress Jackie Lou Blanco and her daughters Arabella and Rikkie Mae try out an interactive station — Nido Fortified

Three years later, doomsayers have been proven wrong. Mall officials estimate that SM Mall of Asia attracts as many as 200,000 people on weekdays, with more people driving all the way to the mall on weekends.

If SM Mall of Asia’s 600 shops and 150 dining establishments are not enough to keep mallgoers busy, the shopping complex also houses an IMAX theater, a convention center, and an Olympic-sized skating rink to entertain its patrons.

Another reason to visit SM Mall of Asia is the Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center, located at the shopping center’s two-storey Entertainment Mall.

Originally called SM Science Discovery Center when it opened in October 2007, the technology-based science theme park was recently renamed to signal the mall’s partnership with the popular milk brand.

The old neon green marquee of the science center has given way to touches of Nido’s signature bright yellow. And aside from ushers sporting yellow badges and ID laces, one occasionally hears Nido’s jingle — "You’re My Number One" — in the background to remind you of the changes.

Joseph Eugene David, Nestlé Philippines, Inc. business executive manager, said Nido Fortified decided to partner with SM Mall of Asia for the science center as a way of giving back to the brand’s loyal supporters. Nestlé is the manufacturer of Nido.

"We have taken on this advocacy because there is an opportunity to improve science competency in our country," Mr. David said in a statement. "Science is something that is very close to our hearts. It is through science that Nestlé discovers and develops the products with which we fulfill our mission of improving the quality of life. By nurturing a child’s passion to learn science at an early age through exploration and interaction, we hope to inspire more Filipino children to fall in love with science," he said.

As you step into the science center, you are immediately reminded that the place caters to schoolchildren. Be ready to meet noisy kids loitering around, trying out all the gadgets with much amazement.

School field trips are commonplace, especially on Fridays. It is packed on weekends. If you don’t want to deal with a crowd, ushers advise people to visit the science center upon opening on Mondays. The science center is open daily from noon to 7 p.m. In some cases, the science center is open as early as 10 a.m. to accommodate school field trips.

The center is a two-level, 3,000-square-meter facility housing seven walk-though galleries, most of which contain interactive stations that enhance visitor experience. As such, it is advised that visitors allot a huge chunk of time when they come to the center to fully experience the interactive stations.

Child Actress Sharlene San Pedro checks out a magnifying glass — Nido Fortified

Sights and sounds
The main attraction of the science center is the DigiStar Planetarium. It has a 15-meter wide dome where short animated films are projected, similar to the old Planetarium in Luneta Park in Manila.

The DigiStar Planetarium provides a clear, 360-view of the dome screen, and digital surround sound, which provides a complete, and "almost true" experience of watching the stars and planets for real. The rotating screen, however, may prove to be too overwhelming for younger kids and for those who suffer from vertigo.

The planetarium can seat 160 people. It has shows every 40 minutes. Featured shows run for about 30 minutes each. The entrance fee to the planetarium is included in the P330 entrance ticket to the science center. While visitors can stay inside the center for as long as they want, they are only allowed to watch one planetarium show per visit.

Aside from the planetarium, the science center has a variety of displays and interactive stations. Smart Media City is one of the four galleries found on the first level. It features GestureTek, where players can interact and move around with various three-dimensional (3D) environments on TV screens using simple body movements. With GestureTek’s Gesture Extreme Virtual Games, one can be transported into a virtual basketball game while "interacting" with virtual players. There are also virtual soccer and volleyball games, as well as a "virtual" drum set which produces music based on which drums you "hit."

Another gallery is called the Grossology station, where kids can learn about the ways and quirks of the human body. In the gallery’s Patients Please section, children can enjoy a hands-on experience "operating" on a mock human body, minus the blood.

The gallery also has entertaining features which reveal how burping happens, as well as how kidneys works. It also has educational Q&A’s about different body odors, including morning breath, stinky feet, and smelly armpits, among others.

Next to Grossology is the science center’s Transportation Nation, where kids can design and build their own virtual cars at the gallery’s kiosks. Graphic panels also display video presentations of the history of various modes of transportation, while pilots-to-be can try landing a plane in the gallery’s flight simulators.

At the first floor, there is also the ImagePort, which showcases the latest in green screen technology, as well as developments in digital imaging. Visitors can have their pictures taken before a green screen, which allows their images to be superimposed on various backgrounds with the help of computer editing. These photos may be downloaded and printed on specially themed Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center merchandise for a fee.

At the science center’s second floor, kids can enjoy the Robots Inc. gallery. Graphic panels and replicas of some of the most famous robots in history and in movies are on display. Visitors can also get to play with remote-controlled "slambots" at the Robo-test section.

Right next to the robots is the City Science Gallery. Scale models of the world’s tallest buildings line its walls. The gallery also features an earthquake simulation room, where visitors get to experience how the ground shakes at various earthquake intensity levels. The Webcam wall section at the end of the City Science Gallery has several screens of video presentations on the world’s major cities.

There is also the Life Clock, a set of touch-screen displays, which allows guests to send e-mails and photos to a future date, sort of a digital time capsule.

The second floor also houses the science center’s Virtual Reef. Guests can walk through an artificial coral reef that mimics scenes of life underwater. Towards the end of the gallery, visitors will meet a talking virtual fish, Mr. T., who’s ready to take on your questions about life at the sea.

Raymund Maclang, assistant vice-president for operations of SM, said the science center will be constantly changing its features and galleries to encourage people to come back.

The P330 entrance fee (which is applicable to any visitor one year old and above) may be too steep for some, but just thinking how much kids would learn while enjoying themselves might make parents rethink their budgets.

"We want children to have a new attitude toward science. We want them to know that science is important in life and studying it can also be fun and enjoyable," Mr. David said.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc.
Mall of Asia Arena
Annex Building
Coral Way cor. J.W. Diokno Blvd
Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City
1300 Philippines