Elisabeth Easther and her son Theo took a sneak peek at Motat’s newest exhibit Welcome to the Machine, declaring it entertaining, educational and epic.

Motat has been quietly undergoing a refresh and refurbishment. This week, in time for the school holidays, it unveiled its newest exhibit, Welcome to the Machine. Motat deserves fanfare for this because it is has created something genuinely enthralling.

Welcome to the Machine helps young minds explore innovation and ingenuity while learning some basic science. Although that may sound a little dry, the reality is anything but. My eight-year-old test pilot could happily have played there all day, literally getting to grips with all the exhibit had to offer. He was still chattering about it when he went to sleep that night, and on waking up the next day.

Entering the vast hall where it's housed, we were hard put to know where to go first: to the magnetic cogs where budding scientists can create their own belt-driven masterpieces or to the modern stainless steel birdcage contraptions that use pulleys to teach the theory of mechanical advantage? Both proved popular.

With the latter, Theo quickly figured out that it was easier to lift yourself up on one device than the other. But why was that? Because the first seat used only three pulleys whereas the second used four, thereby splitting the weight and making it easier to hoist.


This was a genuine eureka moment, which is exactly Motat's intent; their new strategy is to become a "light bulb" institution where visitors are frequently astonished at what they learn.

Essentially, we learned that machines rely on six simple mechanisms: the screw; the pulley; the wheel and axle; the lever; the inclined plane; and the wedge.

When you start looking, you'll find them everywhere. The various displays show these six gadgets in their purest forms, before moving on to demonstrate how these mechanisms can be combined to make more complex devices. Eventually, steam and internal combustion are introduced and before you know it, those six simple devices could fly you to the moon.

And while the children push and pull, wind and slide, the adults can take some time to admire the endearingly old-fashioned gadgets from Motat's vast collection, with everything from ancient washing machines (remember the mangle?) to icecream makers, cork screws to kitchen taps.

Some of the other fun activities include a pinball machine, a giant lever you can lift your mates on, an Archimedes' screw that winds pool balls into the air and the Strongulator that magnifies strength.

I particularly loved the old five-cent maze game, the likes of which used to hang on fish and chip shop walls. Strangely intoxicating, I could've squandered a great deal more time playing that one.

Concept developer Kerry Jimson explained that the intention was to demystify machines and for visitors to have fun and learn by doing it themselves.

"Perhaps," he said, "We'll even inspire some budding inventors while we're at it".


One local invention on show is the Kindling Cracker, designed by Ayla Hutchinson when she was just 14, in response to her mother suffering a nasty injury while splitting wood.

This elegant and practical creation is driven by basic physics and has received keen interest from international manufacturers, thanks to its simplicity and ability to prevent harm.

Theo summed the exhibit up as "epic".

Welcome to the Machine is beautifully executed, carnival meets education, a super new addition to Motat's collection.

Welcome to the Machine - Nau mai ki te Mihini is open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission included as part of the general ticket price.

Invention Nation, Motat's holiday programme, is all about solving a problem by inventing something useful and constructing a massive marble-building machine. Self-guided map of various stations around Motat, with an invention journal and hosts at each stop to guide the kids through various activities. Daily until October 12.

Motat is at 805 Great North Rd, Western Springs. Tickets: $8-$16, under-5s free; family pass (2 adults and 4 children) $40.