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February 18, 2016

Car Museum Teched-Out for Kids -- Cartoon Style

1_dtr_cars_mechanical_inst.If you are planning a family vacation to California, then be sure to put the Peterson Automotive Museum on your must-see list. The remodeled museum in Los Angeles reflects advances in design and technology with a new exterior of curved steel ribbons and LED lights over a hotrod red building. The museum shines like a movie star.

An entire floor of the museum demonstrates automotive design and technology. The technology at the museum doesn't just show car design, but also allows visitors to use technology to learn the mechanics of vehicles at the Cars Mechanical Institute.

2_dtr_petersen_museum_exteriorBased on characters from the Disney Pixar Cars movie, the Cars Mechanical Institute offers technology-based ways for visitors to understand the workings of car technology through augmented reality, interactive displays and other enjoyable methods.

"At the Cars Mechanical Institute, kids can learn about how a car actually works, but not how any car works, but the cars they love from the film Cars," said Jay Ward, cars creative director at Pixar Animation Studios.

Visitors can check out "CARSpad" tablets and are then guided by Cars characters through a race car design experience. The augmented reality CARSpad app takes users through the designing process, picking body designs, engines, drive trains, and biofuel types to make a car of their very own. The characters in the app were animated by Pixar and voiced by the original voice actors.

3_dtr_carspadEach one of the personalities that helps build the car is a character who knows intrinsically how a car works. Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500 who owns a tire shop, explains tires and suspension. Flo, a 1950's show car, teaches about style and design. Sally, a beautiful baby blue Porsche, educates users about aerodynamics. Fillmore, a 1960 VW bus and clean-fuel aficionado, talks about fuel. Ramone, a 1951 Impala low-rider, demonstrates customizing. The Cars characters teach what they know best, says Ward.

The CARSpad iPad works as a magic windshield through augmented reality. The iPad's camera displays what's on the museum floor and overlays an animation on top of it. The user places the iPad camera in front of a symbol in the museum and a character shows features of the car design process, allowing the user to make his or her own choices in the app. Users are introduced to the augmented reality experience by Mater the tow truck.

4_dtr_lightning_mcqueenSymbols are located throughout the floor; for instance the user is asked to pick a race car body type by Flo, in front of a design studio where students from Art Center College of Design are designing the next generation of transportation; there visitors can learn about aerodynamics and drag co-efficient of vehicles. At the alternative fuels area, Fillmore guides users through a display that shows how biofuels are made.

After designing a car, the user views it in augmented reality on a pedestal just like the cars in the museum and can then take the car on a drive on an animated racetrack to see how the design works.

At the gallery of the Cars Mechanical Institute, Lightning McQueen's inner workings are on display in clear cases with large touchscreens that light up different parts of the engine, drivetrain, brakes, or suspension when the user taps a word.

Another interactive exhibit shows how a car starts with each button on the screen corresponding to a part of the engine system. At the drivetrain station, visitors can spin a flywheel and select different gears on a digital transmission to see how gear ratios affect wheel speed. At the suspension station, visitors push a throttle button to spin a brake rotor and then press and hold a caliper button to actuate the brakes.

5_dtr_peterson_museumAt the Cars Mechanical Institute's paint and body table, visitors can digitally paint and apply decals to a car of their choosing, trace cars at the tracing station, or color their car by hand at the open table. At the racetrack station, kids of all ages can play with Cars toy models. Everyone can pose for a photo op or a selfie with a life-size Lightning McQueen.

The reactions from kids visiting the Cars Mechanical Institute can be summarized with one word "wow!" says Ron Gould, creative director of The Scenic Route, the company responsible for the all interior aspects of the museum.

The excitement about the Petersen Museum's Cars Mechanical Institute may be beneficial for years to come. Some visitors may design cars when they grow up, or at the very least, better understand how cars work.

"When the kids grow up, they will know a lot more, and maybe not be taken by a mechanic, which is a good thing," commented Ward.

Lynn_Walford-headshot-smallBy Lynn Walford, Motor Matters

Lynn Walford has been writing and editing for over two decades. Her credits include Yahoo Autos, Investor’s Business Daily, TopSpeed, TechHive, Automotive IT News and Wireless Week. She currently is the editor of AUTO Connected Car News, covering new automotive technology. She is honored to be a Knight Digital Media News Entrepreneur Fellow. Walford learned to drive in her sister’s 1967 Mustang convertible. Her first car was an Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint, followed by a 1965 Thunderbird convertible. Her next car was a 1964 Alfa Romeo Guilia Spyder which led to a series of Toyotas and other “more reliable cars. She currently drives an all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf. Walford resides in the Los Angeles area.

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