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Access Points: Ball machine at Atlanta’s Children’s Museum

Were you able to guess what was in this photo and where you could find it?

Alas, it does not draw lottery numbers, nor does it make margaritas, as some of you suggested for our first Access Points game. But it took parents reading the blog about two seconds to identify the images correctly: it’s the ball machine at Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, also known as the “Tools for Solutions” exhibit. The first reader to correctly identify both in the comments was Liviangel! Thanks to all who played!

"Tools for Solutions" at Imagine It! The Children's Museum of Atlanta. Jamie Gumbrecht/AJC.

I visited the children’s museum last week to check out their Imaginator theater troupe — story coming soon! — but it’s impossible to keep your eyes off the machines sending an endless supply of rainbowed balls through the air. (Fun fact: stray pieces of plastic fruit from the museum’s “Fundamentally Food” exhibit have attempted to make the journey through the tools. They failed.)

A little history…
“Tools for Solutions” opened with the children’s museum in March 2003. Kraemer Design & Production Inc. designed the exhibit — they’re the the same folks worked on the High Museum’s Greene Family Learning Gallery. It was built by BossDisplay, which also handled the Discover H20 exhibit at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. To imagine the wear and tear these machines take, consider that more than 200,000 people visit the museum in a year — about 1.2 million since it opened.

Children worked together on "Tools for Solutions" in 2004. AJC file photo.

What goes into it?
Six simple machines: an inclined plane, screw, lever, wheel & axle, wedge and pulley. At its highest point, its 15 feet tall, which makes it way cooler than my ninth grade Rube Goldberg-inspired science project. There are hundreds of hollow plastic balls rolling in and around it, colored red, orange, yellow, green and blue. Parents tell me it’s impossible to peel kids away from it. Can you blame them? It’s giant toys spitting more toys!

What does it teach?
The idea is that wee ones will gain an early understanding of simple machines and how they work. It also works on fine motor skills and teaches about alternative power sources like wind and water. But the exhibit wedges one more in there, too: you see, it takes at least two people working together to make the machines move all those plastic balls around. Oooh, those sneaky adults.

Want to see it?
It’s in the museum’s “learning zone,” on permanent display toward the museum entryway. Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is at 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive N.W. in Atlanta. Admission is free for children younger than 2 and $12.50 for visitors age 2 and older. For more information, call 404-659-5437 or visit

We’ll have another round of Access Points at 4 p.m. Wednesday next week. What do you think — was this too hard, too easy or just right? Share your perspective in the comments or on Twitter @insideaccess.

15 comments Add your comment


August 3rd, 2009
4:32 pm

OK, enough everyone. It’s a Children’s Museum. Let’s keep it clean. If you want to pay you can pay. If you want to come when it’s free-come when it’s free.


August 2nd, 2009
1:02 pm

Okay, I am a Black American(proud to be) and I have two teenage boys. I am also a housewife. When I ask my husband, if we could have more children, he said,”You can with your new husband because, I can not afford anymore”. Being that, I do not want a new husband, I settled for the two, I have. Back on point, my children only go places and do things that we can afford w/o pulling money from mortgage,car payment insurance, you know, the things we need. In other words, if we can not afford it, we do not do it. In closing,will this country ever get over race?

[...] Think you guessed correctly? Here’s the answer. Bonus Access Point image: answer and story posted at 4 p.m. Thursday! Jamie [...]


July 31st, 2009
4:52 pm

WoW…I’m white and I’m so sick of the black/white & white/black race cards….I personally love color so mine is red/white and blue!!! Proud to be an American


July 31st, 2009
4:32 pm

Besides being a biggot, Virginia is not very good at math. A family of 4 with everyone older thatn 2 years costs $50. If it is too much for you, don’t go. Or, go on a discounted day as others have pointed out. This is a great activity place for kids, but is better for 4-7 year olds than toddlers.