Family Review | Te Puawānanga, MOTAT’s New Science & Technology Experience

There’s more science, more wonder, and hands-on exhibits at MOTAT’s brand new science and technology centre – Te Puawānanaga. The three distinct spaces within this exciting new centre are full of rich stories interwoven with concepts of science, art, technology and maths that surround us every day.

Te Puawānanga is all about interaction and discovery, with something for all ages. From the towering Tāne Mahuta in Te Tumu (a play space for under fives) and Beats in Time in Te Waha (the Innovation space) to the interactive experiences in Te Puku (the science space), MOTAT (Museum of Transport & Technology) welcomes everyone to explore science and tech in a whole new way.

Jacque and her kids attended a special sneak peek event to explore the new centre. Read on to discover what it’s all about.

MOTAT family review

So where do I start? This was such an incredible experience, nothing disappointed! The fact that I struggled to get Mr 9 and Mr 3 to leave was proof in the pudding that this new section at MOTAT, Te Puawananga Science and Technology Centre, has hit greatness!

Welcome to a world of wonder

When you enter it is going inside a world of wonder. There are so many exciting new things to explore that you just want to jump into everything straight away! The first thing I noticed was the space, it has been laid out perfectly that nothing is too busy or crowded. There is plenty of space to wonder, play, explore and amazing little seats, couches and benches that offer parents a chance to sit while their kids explore and play, and it is so well organised that you are able to sit in such a way that you can view them from almost any space … a peace of mind for parents to know your little ones are having the time of their lives and you can still keep an eye on them if you need to rest.

As you enter you can go up a ramp on the right, this leads to a touch screen which controls a projector that shines a picture of your creation on the floor beneath you. Mr 9 quite loved this, being able to move the angles, colours, shapes and design to fit his perfect idea of what he wants projected. Mr 3 just loved the colours and pushing buttons and seeing what is on the screen appear on the floor below.

When you leave the ramp you can go to the design that is projected and moving and have a play in it. They quite liked that – jumping, laughing and playing in their design. Mr 3 enjoyed a little more, I think Mr 9 was “Ok that is cool but let’s move on” where as Mr 3 liked the colour on his hands and chasing the patterns.

MOTAT Family review

Robotic creations

As you leave the projected space there is a section where you can create your own robotic hand using paper, straws and string. The layout was beautiful and amazing! All the little baskets with plenty of resources available. You could definitely have a crowd of 10 plus kids and have plenty of scissors, pencils, and supplies. There is a video on a screen over the resources explaining how to make the hand step by step – this is on rerun. There are also information sheets which give you a hard copy of instructions, also you can take that home with you and try it again. There are light boxes and x-ray sheets that you can put the x-ray on and it shows the bones in different hands, feet etc kind of showing you what you sort of creating. There are also little models of skeleton hands which bend and move which are quite cool, showing kids how your hand moves inside with bones. Mr 3 found the hand grabbers which he decided to test picking up everything he could to see what would work. Mr 9 got hard at work creating his robotic hand and Mr 3 created his own design of cut straws and wool with colouring in, it was still a win!

After the hand designs they moved on to view different technology that was on display on the walls and listen to the sounds that were according to Mr 9 “way back then”. There was an impressive wall of different robots which Mr 3 thought was very interesting.

MOTAT family review

Programming heaven

We moved on to the section where Brain Play was. They had Chromebooks set up with foam shapes and little car robots. This was Mr 9’s place of heaven. The lady helped him to set up and show him how to use the commands and off he went! He loved the fact that you can control something with a keyboard. It was such a cool experience. Mr 3 wanted to jump in as well, they did explain it is for older children so he may not grasp the concept but he is more than welcome to try it out. Which he did, he listened to what she had to say and how it worked and after a little trial and error he got the hang of it and was able to control his robot car as well. The look of wonder and awe in his face when he realised he was doing this! I thought it was a great concept! They have 8 spaces available so there is no waiting or shortage of tries. Mr 9 asked a lot of questions about what else they can do and if they can be programmed to do tricks, the people in charge were able to answer his questions and explain how and what and why. I liked that a lot, it was great to see they were engaged. They were able to have a conversation over programming and Mr 9 felt he had come out of there with more knowledge and even asked them if they do classes outside of MOTAT, where he got a business card to contact them later. This really brought out the programmer in him.

After the robot cars we moved to another programming section, this one was 2 robots, 1 is a base that gives out the instructions to the little one to move. You choose your commands, place it on the board and press play and let the magic take over! You can even make a maze and let it go through it. Mr 9 tried to make it super tricky and tried different commands, Mr 3 more enjoyed the fact he made his little robot dance and play music! It is a nice concept for the younger kids to get a feel for programming in a fun creative way.

MOTAT family review

Lots of energy!

There was a massive, wide slide that took their attention, a wavy textured side and a smooth slide. They went down this quite a few times and then mom joined in too … it was so much fun!

Upstairs from the lower level was this incredible energy machine, there are 4 sections which use different forms of energy and if you get enough energy loaded, the balls in the centre lift up and then come down with a big bang! There was a section which you need to wind a wheel as fast as you can, another where you rub a pad for heat friction, another where you jump up and down on a pad, and the last was where you use as much sound as possible to create energy, let’s just say this was where you found out who could scream the loudest!

To the right of this is a big plane, the kids found this entertaining, to see the pieces of the plan open up to view. They thought it was cool but didn’t spend much time there. Along the wall was pop art where they explained how things are made and harvested etc.

There is a screen section which was showing a clip about carbon. The screen stretches around the wall and there were nice chairs on the side against the wall and comfortable and sturdy bean bag chairs. The kids took to the bean bags, they watched the clip twice … afterwards they were asking questions about carbon and explaining what they thought was bad about carbon and how it can be used for good.

We landed up at the weight/pulley section, where there were 2 chairs that you sit on and use the ropes to pull yourself up. One is quite easy and the other is a bit tougher. Mr 9 remembered it from the old section, so he was quite excited that they had kept it! There was also a platform where you stand on and someone else needs to pull the strings and see if they can lift you up. They quite liked to see who was stronger here. Along the wall were different types of weights where you could experiment with and see what it feels like to lift up different levels of weight and how they come in different forms.

MOTAT family review

Mirrors, colours and light

We came to a mirror walk, where mirrors were placed wall to wall, and even on the ceiling! Standing in a certain way you see many reflections of yourself. It was cool to find different places to stand along to wall to cover as many mirrors as possible with yourself. It became a contest to see who had the most of themselves.

Onward there is a big curtain of plastic rings which have lights shining and they change all these awesome colours as you walk through. When they went certain colours like red or orange you could not see anyone inside until it went more blue and white. I found this fascinating.

Along the wall were different prisms and light and when you move them in certain ways they form different patterns and you see how the path of light can be broken. Mr 9 did try to see how he could make a pattern or fix the broken light, where Mr 3 just liked to move the prisms to see the lights.

There was a cool video where if you move the button it shows different x-ray light that shows people normally as the eye would see, to seeing you as a body of heat to seeing your skeleton.

MOTAT family review

Delight for under fives

Just outside the under 5 section is a white wall which has 3 lights, red, blue and yellow shining. When you stand there you get an incredible 3 colour silhouette of yourself. The kids loved trying different poses and seeing if they could merge all colours, which they found you couldn’t but it was fun trying!

We made it to the under 5 section which was closed off with a secure glass door. Oh my soul it is incredible! Both kids got lost inside with imagination! There is a waka where kids can sit inside and pretend to paddle, knitted eels and weaved baskets to pretend that you are fishing; stepping stones made out of cushions, knitted kumara, felt stones, wood pieces and fire to make your own pretend fire; incredible baby pond section where little ones can play in a sensory safe place; touch and feel wall art of textures, doors to open and close, mirrors. Along one wall are all the different ways to see how plants are created. There were spinning wheels to find the hidden spot, to pulling and opening doors. There is a tree where you climb up and slide down. And a little hideout which the kids made a fort. They met kids there in the same age gap and they all just started creating this imaginary game of foresting and camping. It was so awesome to see that there is a space where kids can be kids and use simple, beautiful handmade items to create a world of possibilities. I am glad we went there last as I think if we went first they might have not been as eager to leave. I did struggle to get them to leave, as there were only 10 minutes left before they closed.

When we eventually got them to leave the under 5 section and leave the imagination behind they asked if they could just go do some things for one last time. These included .. a last slide, one more look at the robot hands, one more look at the robot board with commands and a final hang-out with the real-life robot!

They also had a wonderful space where they had robot books for kids, from board books to books more suited for older kids. Books ranged from fact to fiction books and it was quite nice to see and they liked flipping through the pages.

As we were leaving MOTAT they had 2 food trucks*, and the ice cream truck sold UV light ice cream that glowed in the UV room, along with any light clothing. It was quite a novelty to see the UV light reflecting off the ice-cream. Mr 9 even used his own money to buy him and his brother an ice-cream! It was pretty cool if I do say so myself!

And we made sure to get an incredible MOTAT shot with the lights shining on the MOTAT sign!

MOTAT family review

Highly recommended

I personally feel they have done an incredible job with this new section and there is so much to explore for young and old. I really love the open space and still so much in the space and the sitting space is really thought out well. The most exciting for me was the lights making silhouettes with the 3 colours. And the under 5 section where all the little pieces make for an awesome imagination experience.

Mr 9 said his time there was amazing!! He asked if we can go every day after school. He told me he would go first to this section then to the pieces he likes at MOTAT then end off with this section again. He said he could sit and play with the programming sections all day and make robot hands. He also said it would be cool to get a whole bunch of friends or kids to do the energy section and see how long they can keep the balls up for. He said he also liked the robot man and would like to see him again to see if he could programme him to do other things or win a game of rock, paper and scissors. He also said he wishes he was under 5 so he could play in the section as it was great fun pretending and using your imagination. He did say they should add a section for older kids with a similar context where they can go and play and create imagination games. He honestly did not want to leave, we pretty much left with 3 minutes before they closed.

Mr 3 really liked the under 5 section and playing with all the beautiful eels and sitting in the waka. He loved the arts and crafts section (he calls it that but it was the robot hand-making station). He really enjoyed that everything you can touch, feel and pick up. It gave him a space he can explore and see things in a different light. When I asked him what he liked the most of the experience he said everything in the whole wide world!

We would definitely recommend this new section and go back for sure. I loved seeing them so engaged and having so much fun while getting some learning in as well.

MOTAT family review

You can find Te Puawānanga at building number 5. As you enter there is a little room to the right which is clearly marked Kai room, it is set up with little tables and space for you to enjoy your food and drink, a nice alternative to outside if weather is against you or if you just feel like sitting indoors. There are also bathrooms up some stairs at the end of the Kai room.

Entry is included in general admission.

Plan your visit at

Jacque and her family were provided with a family pass to MOTAT for the purposes of the review. Views are those of the reviewer.

* Please note that Jacque and the kids attended a special preview event. Food trucks are not regular inclusions at MOTAT.

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