Helix: Ultimate science experiment arrives in downtown Los Altos

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Owen, David and Zach Brunner of Los Altos, above, from left, put their hands together to conduct energy in one of Helix’s nearly 30 science exhibits. The Exploratorium recently opened the downtown Los Altos location at 316 State St.

First art, now science.

Los Altos is becoming an incubator for experimental projects, with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos” exhibition and the newly opened Helix, the San Francisco-based Exploratorium’s first satellite location.

Visitors walking past Helix’s 316 State St. location may find it difficult to resist the allure of some curious science contraptions that sit just feet from the front window of the 5,000-square-foot community science center.

Funded by a one-year grant from Los Altos-based Passerelle Investment Co., the new space boasts approximately 25 kiosks with activities that challenge youth and adults alike to explore scientific principles in engaging ways.

From a “Scope on a Rope” that allows guests to magnify things around them at a microscopic scale and view them on a big screen to an anamorphic mirror that demonstrates how a concave piece of glass reflects the objects around it, the variety of possible experiments in the space offers much to fascinate and challenge visitors.

“It’s been surprisingly popular,” said Helix Director Anne Richardson of how the new space has been received since it opened for a soft launch Nov. 23. “People are happy that Los Altos has something like this to offer.”

The multipurpose space offers two floors of exhibit space, a retail shop and a classroom on the second floor that will be used for community programming.

Visitors may want to return to Helix more than once, as new installations are scheduled to rotate into and out of the space frequently.

Admission to Helix is “pay what you wish,” a decision made to ensure that the community space was accessible to all.

Although Helix is scheduled to be open through November 2014, Richardson said organizers are exploring revenue models that may keep the science center open even longer.

“We want people to feel like it’s their center,” Richardson said.

Helix’s hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Wednesday, 1-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For a calendar of upcoming events and more information, visit

Helix opens in Los Altos - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos