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Dec 10

Fort Worth – Show me the money!

This past week we got to visit the science center in Dallas. We’ve been told that it’s amazing. And it was nice – relatively new and fancy and shiny. It was more a museum than a science center, though, and a lot of the displays didn’t have a lot of  hands on “science learning”. That said, this one will go down as a great trip due to the Gemstone exhibit.

Rebecca has discovered a fascination with chemistry, and is currently finishing up an intro to Chemistry course. When one of the “talk geek with me” volunteers noticed we were lingering at the periodic table interactive-display longer than some of the other visitors to the museum, she came over and asked if we were interested in the chemistry behind the gems.

That expanded into some interesting discussion about one gem that changes color based on whether it has an extra water molecule, and the story behind the discovery of pure fluorine (F), which is apparently deadly and killed the first person who tried to isolate it.

Rebecca’s eyes lit up when the lady got her kindle out and had me take a picture of a book that explains the history of each element in its own chapter… forget those fancy books in the gift shop! It was all she read for days after we visited the museum!

What Science Museum would be complete without dinosaur bones?

Oh, ok, he’ll put his hand in this dino print! If you remember, he wasn’t too happy about doing this when we were playing at Dinosaur Valley State Park!

Another day we drove back into Fort Worth to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It was quite the unique experience. I’m not sure I’ve ever been through such tight security, even at the airport! We knew ahead of time that no cameras, phones, or other electronic devices were allowed inside so we were prepared. But that means no pictures, sorry!

After going through security, we boarded a trolley that drove us across a gated and quite secure parking lot to the actual building where they make the money.

The self-guided tour was through an elevated hallway with lots of windows where we could look down on everything going on and learn about it from hand-held devices that contained prerecorded information about each step of the process. The workers smiled and waved at us at each stop!

I wish I could tell you all the interesting facts they shared on that recording – Rebecca kept telling me, “mom, did you hear that?” and spout off some fact that while I may have just heard it myself, I couldn’t have repeated it to save my life. Too much auditory information for a visual learner! Part of the problem was the large numbers – how many sheets through each machine in how much time and so forth.

The prodigious warehouse was divided off into large caged sections. Each section individually secured for only those who work in that specialty area. Stacks and stacks of paper – unprinted, half-printed, and fully-printed dotted the workspace.

Watching one machine pull individual sheets of this oversized paper through, pressing the inked plate on and stacking it neatly was fascinating. In one section, the individual sheets of printed money were sent through a conveyer belt with multiple cameras and other devices meant to compare the sheet to the perfect standard. Their perfection rate is very high for the astronomical amount of cash that pours out of there each day!

There were more checks and rechecks as the money was dried, the sheets cut in half, and so on until there were stacks of individual bills, bound together with paper bands. If a single bill is found to have a blemish in a stack, the entire stack is replaced with a star stack – there is an actual star after the serial number on each bill in the stack.

Then the stacks are bound together into bundles, and the bundles wrapped, labeled, sorted onto pallets and prepared for shipping to Federal Reserve Banks.

The adjoining museum had several displays where you could use a magnifier to look at the intricate detail in each bill. We also got to see the history of printing and engraving, and some old versions of United States Currency.

We had a great time!

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