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Hands-on exhibit of da Vinci's inventions opens at Air Force museum

' Leonardo da Vinci Machines in Motion' opens Feb. 21.
Ty Greenlees
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
' Leonardo da Vinci Machines in Motion' opens Feb. 21.

An exhibit billed as the largest display of hands-on reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions opened Monday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton.

"Leonardo da Vinci Machines in Motion" is on tour from Florence, Italy. It lets visitors explore 40 full-size working machines designed by scientists and artisans using methods from da Vinci's time.

"This exhibit kind of sets the foundation for much of the technology that we have here at the museum," explains Michael Brimmer, chief of education for the Air Force museum.

Machines include a revolving crane, a full-size armored tank — large enough for several visitors to fit inside, according to a release — a working robot, flying machines, a hydraulic water saw, a parachute, a machine gun and more.

Though da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519, his drawings and ideas are relevant today, especially from an educational standpoint, Brimmer points out. He notes the exhibit covers basic STEM concepts.

"In fact, when you look at the curriculum for the state of Ohio, you see a lot of these things like forces in motion, energy — these concepts that our kids are learning about. And so why is that important? Because it builds the foundation of understanding of how basic things work, like what's an inclined plane? How it can it be used? What about a screw, or pulleys and a block and tackle... just some of these basic items that are incorporated in really every machine that we interface with today."

The exhibit is divided into four areas based on da Vinci's study and applied knowledge of the elements: earth, air, fire and water.

Brimmer views the exhibit as a good mix of art and science, too, and how da Vinci's ideas were ahead of his time and very advanced for the age.

The exhibit is free and runs through May 8.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.