|Exhibit prototyping is done for two main
reasons: To test a concept and to test a function. Verification of a
concept is important and is performed before much else is done with an
exhibit. An exhibit must convey an idea or a concept or a fact. If the
exhibit cannot do any of these things - all good intentions are wasted - to coin a
phrase: "If it's not worth doing - it's not worth doing
well". The second reason - testing a function - is performed to
see how well an exhibit does whatever it is supposed to do. While the
first reason tells us if our concept is valid, the second, among other
things, tests the
engineering aspects of an interactive display: How well it withstands
the rough handling while operating, how safely it is constructed and how
easy it is to operate it.
After a prototype undergoes successfully the above tests, it is placed in the real environment of the museum or science center and then it goes a set of evaluations. These evaluations which are based on observations, questionnaires and other techniques, generate the necessary feedback for the designers of the exhibit. Based on such feedback, a prototype becomes a "real" exhibit. However, even when the exhibit is finished and placed on the floor, further observations may determine that it needs more refinement. In effect, it is not too bold to state that an exhibit is always a prototype - even in its finished state.
All prototypes on this page were designed and produced at Levy Design Studios in Portland, Oregon, USA.
|CENTRIFUGAL FORCE IN TRANSPORTATION - The prototype
needs to determine at what speed and angle, will the bus tip over as a
result of losing its balance.
Hong Kong Science Museum
|FORMATION OF CLOUDS - We had an idea but didn't know if it would work. The concept was to test the theory (on a small scale) of formation of clouds as a result of sudden drop in pressure and introduction of small smoke particles. The experiment was successful, (right) but the road to a real exhibit was very long. Eventually we decided that this concept is best conveyed to the visitors by using the experiment as a live demonstration. Hong Kong Science Museum.|
|DEPTH SENSORS ON LEFT AND OCEAN CURRENTS ON RIGHT - In order to test an exhibit that shows how a marine depth sensor works in real life, we had to construct outside the studio a 12 feet deep tank. On the right, a prototype is being built to show ocean currents. Eventually the exhibit would use small amount of dye to visualize the currents around the island of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Science Museum.|
|PROBABILITY MACHINE ON LEFT AND PUMPS ON RIGHT - Although we had built other probability machines, we needed to make a smaller exhibit, to test the correct dimensional proportions. On the right is a prototype of exhibit on comparing the efficiency of two pumps. Both prototypes were done for the San Diego Science Center, in California.|
|MAP PROJECTIONS - Although the concept of map projections is used daily by cartographers, we needed to verify if an optical projection would be a clear way of showing the concept. The left prototype shows a polar projection and the one on the right shows a conical projection. National Geographic Society, Washington DC.|
|EROSION BED AND BINARY COUNTER - Finding the right
materials for the erosion bed to simulate nature is a challenge - the
material must be able to stick together, but be eroded by the stream of
water to simulate what happens in real life. National Geographic
Society, Washington DC.
On the right is a prototype for a binary counter for Fort Gordon Science Center in Augusta, Georgia.
|WHEEL FOR PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE AND ENGINEERING TEST OF A HEAT EXCHANGE TUBE - In some cases, even before a functioning prototype of an exhibit is constructed, the very basic concept needs to be tested and verified. Crude "shop" prototypes are constructed for this purpose.|
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