the Shed, mid winter nightsThe Shed, in Questacon’s Gallery 5, is a place for people of all ages and abilities to imagine and create objects, artworks or inventions and solve problems through invention and experimentation; independently, with family and friends, and with help from a Questacon facilitator. Visitors get to solve problems and make improvements, gaining insight into the process of innovation as they work and play.  

Ro McPhee, one of The Shed’s learning experience presenters, sums up the philosophy behind The Shed. According to Ro, “It’s about encouraging people to let go of their anxieties around trying something. Give it a shot. It’s a no-judgement space. We’re all still learning and we’ve all got things to learn from each other.” 

the Shed, mid winter nightsWhen families arrive at The Shed, adults often get their children started and then sit back to watch. As Ro says, “There’s no reason why adults can’t play, and parents, guardians and teachers often soon join in, helping, working alongside and sometimes even taking over with their enthusiasm! I think this shows we all love and need this type of play.”  

One of Ro’s most memorable experiences was spending an hour supporting a 10-year-old who had ambitious plans to weave a complicated basket. At first the child’s mother sat back to watch, but after realising how much fun it was, she decided to start work on her own weaving project. This experience captures the spirit of ‘tinkering in The Shed’, as both young and old minds explore new things and learn new skills. Ro reflects on how the experience engaged both the parent and child. “By the end [the child] was weaving independently and the whole time the mum was doing her own thing and chatting quite a lot about what The Shed does.” 

Activities at The Shed are refreshed several times a year, so there’s something new to do each visit. It could be testing paper aircraft designs over a wind table or learning to weave thread into a sturdy basket. Making rockets, inventing a contraption to draw shapes, designing towers, building an effective greenhouse and experimenting with electric circuits are just some of the challenges that have been featured at The Shed

Each activity is centred on problem-solving challenges. They involve different materials and different goals. As Ro says, “The mindset is ‘try it out’. If it doesn’t do what you wanted then how do you change it? Test again. Change again.” 

The ShedThe value of iterative design became very clear to one aspiring innovator, 6-year-old Max, who spent time in the tinkering studio during the wind table exhibit. He said, “My design has changed A LOT – it definitely looks different from my original plan. Being able to test it was important though, because now it is the bestest parachute ever!” 

Ro considers a learning experience at The Shed to be successful “when a visitor wants to work with someone else, show someone else what they’ve done, take their creation home, or do the activity at home.” In this way, The Shed is supporting the development of the next generation of problem-solvers, creative thinkers and innovators. 


The Shed is located in Gallery 5 and its hands-on exhibits change every few months.