The Tech Museum of Innovation, fondly dubbed "The Tech,'' was conceived in 1978 as a place to promote the spirit of Silicon Valley through education, information, and interactive displays of science and technology. It was originally known as "The Garage'' and located in a former convention center on San Carlos Street. It rapidly outgrew its space, however, and eventually reopened in 1990 in the three-story, 132,000-square-foot mango-and-azure-colored domed building it now calls home.
Today, The Tech is a San Jose landmark, greeting some 500,000 visitors a year and providing them with a glimpse into "the most inventive place on Earth.'' It showcases the high-tech gadgets and gizmos that have made Silicon Valley famous, while inspiring future inventors to pursue their dreams. There are hands-on science labs, jet-pack simulators, and huge works of art representing scientific achievements. A 185-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel supplies 10 percent of the museum's electricity.
Among the museum's permanent exhibits is a 3,000-square-foot interactive exhibition called "The Tech Awards Gallery,'' where innovative technology benefiting humanity is on display. In the Virtual Test Zone, the Exploration Gallery, and the space called NetPl@net the world of virtual reality is explored, while the "Green by Design'' exhibit focuses on renewable energy sources.
IDEA House is The Tech's interactive program space for would-be inventors to innovate and design, Spirit of American Innovation honors winners of the National Medal of Technology, and the Innovation Gallery opens the way for play with Silicon Valley inventions from microchips to 3-D laser scanners. There is also a "Life Tech Gallery,'' where machines and their applications to longevity can be studied.
As outreach programs, The Tech offers free field trips for students, math studies, annual science summer camps, and online design classes. The museum receives cooperation from other organizations, too, from the Department of Genetics at Stanford University to the space exploration experts of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The museum has its own large-screen cinema, the Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater, where hourly education films are shown from 10am to 4pm. It can seat an audience of up to 295 persons and features an exceptional all-digital surround-sound system. Special movie events are often held here, too, such as evening showings of the feature-length film "Star Trek'' in concurrence with the museum's special Star Trek exhibition.
The Tech's 2,000-square-foot TechStore offers all kinds of gadgets and innovative gifts for sale, ranging from logo apparel and educational books to eco-friendly products, garden items, music CDs, DVDs, souvenir bags, toys, and games. Science kits and Star Trek branded merchandise are also available. And when it is time for a break, guests can relax with a drink or a snack at the 80-seat Cafy Primavera next door.
The Tech Museum of Innovation is located at 201 South Market Street, San Jose, California 95113. The museum opens daily at 10am and closes at 5pm on Monday through Wednesday, 6pm on Thursdays and Sundays, and 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays. General admission, which includes the IMAX show, is $10 for visitors aged three and above. Admission is free to the public on the first full weekend and the second Sunday of each month.