A Curious Mind exhibition presents electrical engineering innovations and history

The exhibition shows a desire to find new solutions.

The stories behind the innovations tell of persistent work and a desire to find new solutions. One story even features the American secret service.

An exhibition has been set up in the lobby at Maarintie 8 presenting the history of the School of Electrical Engineering. The items on display include a galvanometer, the first dynamo manufactured in Finland, the first Nordic superconductor motor, an MRI device, a black solar panel and many other innovations that have come from research carried out over the years.

‘We wanted to use the exhibition to increase the unity of the school and to tell of all that has been and is being researched in ELEC. The research devices were on display in Otakaari 5, but after the move we needed to find a new place for them. Maarintie 8 is a natural location for an exhibition because a majority of ELEC staff and students work in the building’, explains Technology Manager Petri Hyvönen.

The exhibition was constructed by designer Liisa Poskiparta.

‘Learning more about electrical engineering during the curation and documentation stage was a unique and wonderful experience. I was inspired by the professors’ passion for their work. I feel the same passion for my own field. I wanted to communicate the stories of these grand inventions and make the exhibition easily accessible, intelligible to all, and of a high visual quality. My starting point was to concisely open up electrical engineering’s great moments to a wider audience, including visitors and people from other fields, so that these treasures would not remain known only to professionals within the field. You could say that this is about popularising science. I was especially excited about the Metsähovi Radio Observatory and space-related discoveries, as well as the world’s first talking machine Synte 2, which enabled speech production for those for whom it was difficult or impossible’, Liisa explains.

Ms Poskiparta took care of the extensive design and interior architecture tasks ranging from exhibition curation to choosing furniture and fixtures in keeping with the architecture and setting the details of every picture and text.

‘Simultaneously controlling and predicting everything was very challenging, and surprises can never be avoided, but I believed that a simple exhibition background would work even if the parts of the exhibition changed. My work expanded to cover other areas as well, such as changes to the building.’

‘Science and technology are surprisingly human fields. Science is curious; its task is to ask and answer questions. Science’s task is to assist us all. Science is solidarity at its best’, Ms Poskiparta concludes.

Even the CIA got in touch

Many of the school's specialists helped with putting together the exhibition. Name interviewed professors who at times gave unbelievable stories of the inventions' history. For example, in the story of the first Nordic superconductor motor, even America's Central Intelligence Agency got interested in the project.

‘The Americans were having problems with their superconductive machines intended for use as motors for their navy ships, so the CIA came to Helsinki University of Technology to learn about the subject. Here at the school we were amazed that the CIA knew about Finland, and especially about its small electrical engineering laboratory’, remembers Professor Emeritus Tapani Jokinen.

In the end, the interest and the praising letter from the CIA eventually resulted in Professor Jokinen receiving a grant of one million Finnish marks for numerical calculations of magnetic fields, and thus he was able to develop once again a new research topic.

The exhibition’s opening hours are the same as those of Maarintie 8. We hope to see you there!

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 Shankar Deka is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation.
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