After months of stalking the Hill Country Science Mill on social media, I was thrilled when the doors to the Johnson City center finally opened a few weeks ago. I had heard that the Science Mill was designed with middle and high school students in mind, so I couldn’t wait to take my curious 12-year-old (along with his three younger siblings, because they don’t like to be left out).
We skipped the madness of opening weekend and went the following Saturday, which proved to be a good call. There were just a handful of visitors that morning and we were able to explore at our own pace. Or rather, at my middle schooler’s pace, which turned out to be very slow. He delighted in trying every single thing, and exploring each exhibit in depth. I’d say the Mill achieved their goal to “ignite the curiosity, ambition, innovation and problem-solving potential of the next generation.”
When we arrived, each kid received an Avatar Passport lanyard, which served as their tour guide at the Science Mill. At several stops throughout the Mill, the kids scanned their Passports into a small tablet, to learn more about the exhibits. Their robot avatars taught them about fractals, for example, at the unique color-changing Fractalarium pictured below.
The Science Mill, built within a restored 1800s feed grist mill and cotton gin, is not huge in square footage, but it is jam-packed with interesting, interactive exhibits that captivated each of my children, from the 2-year-old on up. The kids enjoyed digging in sand to learn about topography and meteorology, building circuits, controlling wind to race sailboats and spin turbines, looking at holograms, designing remote control race cars, and watching a free 3D movie. My personal favorite exhibit was Mindball, a competitive game which required my active 6- and 8-year-old boys to sit quietly and calmly focus on controlling their brain waves to move a ball across the table. I think I need this game for my house. It was awesome.
After four hours in the Science Mill, I decided we needed to head out, but the kids easily could have spent another hour exploring, they were so interested in the exhibits, maker stations, and play areas. When we left, my 12-year-old said, “That was really fun. I wasn’t expecting to like it that much because I thought it was a museum.” So, there you go. Solid endorsement from an almost-teen. And my younger kids loved it too.