Discovery Science Center (DSC), the popular children’s museum in Santa Ana, Calif., called on seasoned exhibit producer, artisan and fabricator Cinnabar Inc. to realize its concept for “Eco Challenge” – a fun and educational experience that marries authentically detailed themed environments to interactive video game technology and teaches kids about eco-friendly choices.
The exhibit, open since September, has already hosted thousands of children and been hailed as a success.
“The children are immersed in an amazing environment full of realism and technology,” says Joe Adams, Discovery Science Center President. “We’re already hearing from parents that the message from the experience is being driven home.”
The project was born when Orange County Waste & Recycling (OCW&R) approached Discovery Science Center with the idea for the exhibit. The museum then turned to Cinnabar to help make the exhibit a reality.
“We were brought in and given the creative vision,” explains Cinnabar President Jonathan Katz. “With the museum’s guidance, we completed the design/build work and assembled a team to accomplish the completely integrated project, including longtime Cinnabar collaborator Mindi Lipschultz as media producer, and BBI Engineering for A/V systems and mechanical interfaces.”
As visitors navigate the three zones of Eco Challenge (Discovery Market, Race to Recycle and Eco Garage), they are greeted and addressed by the “Eco Crew” – six unique, digitally animated, 3D-rendered characters that appear, reappear and interact with visitors throughout the experience – showing up on a variety of digital displays from 52″ vertical monitors down to 15″ shopping cart screens. Lively, friendly and informative, the Eco Crew members reflect the diversity of their audience and address their viewers as equals while making an engaging, clear and passionate connection to what all of us can do to Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.
The exhibit centers around three keystone experiences, all media-rich and detail-laden:
Discovery Market is a life-size recreation of a grocery store, complete with computer-enhanced shopping carts. Eco Crew members help guide visitors through making the most ecologically friendly decisions while navigating the store.
The battery-powered shopping carts, scaled to the museum’s younger visitors, are equipped with touchscreen displays and handheld scanners. The user-friendly, intuitive interface lets visitors jump right into the experience The carts are engineered to be extremely durable, able to take the daily wear-and-tear dealt out in a supermarket and a hands-on science center.
Race to Recycle turns the concept of carnival-style horseracing into a trash and recycling sorting adventure. After a quick introduction from Eco Crew member Zac, who shows up on the screen console for each sorting station, kids select items off a moving conveyor belt and sort them into the proper bin to advance their waste truck along the racecourse.
Eco Garage recreates three typical household garages, along with the bevy of toxic items contained within. Armed with scanners, kids race the clock to pick items they think are hazardous waste. At the end, Eco Crew member Justin directs them to the nearest real-life hazardous waste processing facility.
“[Eco Challenge] is utilizing a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art exhibit to educate children and parents on the importance of making eco-friendly decisions for the long-term,” explains Adams.
The project was completed in less than a year – a feat which Katz credits to a clear vision from the museum and a cohesive team.
“A key part of our Integrated Creative Management (ICM) approach is to bring all the participants to the table at the beginning of a project. By identifying all the roles and our expectations at the onset, the project was able to move at a quick pace,” says Katz. “Additionally, ICM results in additional value and savings for the client- enhancing the risk/reward attractiveness of this production model.” The Discovery Science Center provided a clear vision for Cinnabar and Cinnabar in turn set in motion an effective collaborative production.
Already, the museum is seeing results from the team’s efforts. The exhibit has been a hit with school groups and field trips.