City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

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


July 31st, 2009
3:42 pm

Viginia’s ignorance aside, there’s no law that says that you have to take your child some place that costs too much. Part of being a responsible parent is teaching your child how to spend money wisely. It’s a good idea to show them that they don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to have fun. There are parks and festivals that are free, and there are other museums where the admission is a lot less.


July 31st, 2009
3:42 pm

Wow while this does sound pricey just look for coupons. Everyone take a deep breath and laugh at Stephen Hawkins comment b/c I’m sorry thats just funny. While it may be expensive it may be one of the best times your kids have this summer. You never know.


July 31st, 2009
3:26 pm

Thank you Nicole, well said!!! We need more responsible parents, single or married, black or white. Good luck raising your son!!

Stephen Hawkins

July 31st, 2009
2:11 pm

Virgina- Come to my house with the museum manager and lets settle all of this over a beer. After all- Obama is teaching us that we can solve the worlds longest hatred over a 12oz draft (as long as the white house media is there to take the photos) PS- Virgina, I bet may even chip in the $1.75 for the beer so you could enjoy it.


July 31st, 2009
1:31 pm

Let’s stay focused here. Playing the race card was the wrong thing to do Ms. Virginia. Keep it simple…..!!


July 31st, 2009
10:29 am

Thats way too much money.


July 31st, 2009
9:39 am

I am a single parent who loves taking my kid out on adventure days (Zoo atlanta, fernbank, krispy kreme, Cleveland Ga, etc). I dont expect things to be always be free. I give up getting my nails done, buying new jeans, Starbucks (that was hard to do) and other things I WANT just to afford the oh so pricey adventure days my son has grown accustom to. I know how hard it is with one child, but Virginia, I did myself a favor, I stopped at one child. You choose to have more than one child, and you knew that taking care of them and providing for them was not going to be free. So suck it up. Shop around for the best deals, take advantage of online coupons, and certain offers/discounts your credit card company give away. Oh, and just in case you havent notice, I am BLACK


July 31st, 2009
9:19 am

Virginia, I was in agreement with you until I read your comment about “guess they thought we could afford it, since we were not black”.
Not all black families expect things to be free, nor do all black families get everything free..

If you have 2-3 kids, then you and your husband need to figure out what y’all want to do without in order to take your children places that you have to pay to get in..That’s what me and my husband do in order to take our 2 greandkids places…Oh, and by the way, I’m not black..

Jamie Gumbrecht

July 30th, 2009
10:19 pm

Virginia: Imagine It! does offer Target Free Second Tuesdays, which allows folks to visit the children’s museum without paying admission. There’s one coming up 1-8 p.m. on Aug. 11. For more info:

Also, it’s common for museums and cultural institutions offer free days or discounted admission for residents of their city or county. (The High Museum has one this weekend, for instance.) To be clear, it has nothing to do with race.


July 30th, 2009
10:04 pm

$12.50 for a child 2 and up? That’s absurd, especially with the economy the way it is! I’m sure to the wealthy and upper class, it’s just a drop in the bucket for them, but when you have two adults and 2-3 kids 3 and up, that’s $100 and up(not to mention transportation, food, etc.). maybe you shouldn’t start charging kids til they’re school age-like 6,for example. Why 6? I took a couple of kids to Sci Trek once and only the two older kids understood it well enough to participate in the events. The younger two cried too much,were crying for food constantly,and I had to stop to take them to the bathroom every 15 minutes or so.There were no free tickets for us like the Atlanta family behind me (I guess they assumed we could afford it because we were not black). No wonder they went out of business.