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Inventive Science: More than Just Fun


Glenn Mills is part teacher, part scientist, and part inventor. We think you'll enjoy what he calls his "touchable science."

Meet Glenn Mills. For nearly 50 years he's been discovering, teaching and building what he calls "touchable science." "I try to make mechanical things to represent real things rather than just words in a book. You've got to see the real stuff, you need the book, but you need this with it."

On his farm in the Northwestern U.S. state of Oregon, he builds and invents simple exhibits that educate. A mechanical snake's head...

“They can open their jaw very wide, and at an angle so they can swallow something very big," he says.

…with its backbone made from a bike chain. "It can move this way, but it can't move up and down much."

And how does a bee sting? “It keeps working into you for up to a half hour after the bee leaves."

Friend and colleague Pat Willis works at a nearby museum.

“Glenn has built almost every exhibit we've got," says Willis, the education director.

And he's still at it. "I've always liked Glenn because he is clever. I'll have an idea or staff will and then he'll come up with something that is, ‘Wow, Glenn, I didn't think of that!’ "

The exhibits are meant to be handled and heard. He loves sound. A grasshopper is typical. "So when it moves its leg up and down on the body, which has bumps on it, it makes this kind of a noise," says Mills.

What touchable science will Glenn come up with next? He says, “We want to spark an interest so that [people say]: ‘Oh, that was neat, I wonder what else I can learn?’ "

Only time will tell.