Dr. Seuss had it right; children want to be challenged, entertained, and delighted just like adults. That was the idea that guided us when the Roanoke Gas Company and Virginia 811 commissioned us to create an engaging, interactive museum exhibit that could teach children ages 3-8 about underground utility safety. Child psychology, immersive design, and live interpretation all needed to come together to help teach specific learning objectives in a fun environment.
We based The Wonders Right Under on the premise that every child loves to explore and play games. To that end, we created a backyard ecosystem where children—and the young at heart—can interact with plants and animals. The gameplay involves placing utility flags on moving markers. Once the markers are activated, an underground world opens up. Kids can then use the markers to activate utility lines and learn how gas, water, cable, and electricity reach their homes. The end result is a fully realized and immersive world where play leads to learning.
Everything we created for this interactive exhibit, from the circular-based animations to our immersive sound design, is designed to be pixel-perfect for our young audience. Sensors, projectors, and a multi-zone audio system all tie into our customized server application to create a highly responsive interactive experience. Our UX design was the key to this exhibit, so we consulted with a visual arts education specialist to make sure our visual platform and gameplay ideas resonated with our 3-8 year old audience.
Concurrent with our technical execution, we worked remotely with our client partners in Virginia and fabricators in Florida to create the right dedicated space for the exhibit and make sure our freestanding “homes” had varying degrees of depth so children could also play inside of them. A custom-fabricated ceiling truss system was also created for our projectors and sensors.
The process and project management elements of the job were complex, but when it all came together at the Kids Square museum in Roanoke, Virginia, the results were pretty magical. We created a custom-interface control system for the museum to tweak the settings on the exhibit, but we’ve also created a remote connection that allows us to check on the The Wonders Right Under and make sure it’s running smoothly.