innovative projects

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” Linus Pauling

The projects shown here are those that broke new ground, for us as planners and designers and for our clients as leaders in the field. No two projects, or clients, are alike. Innovative thinking is what they have in common.

When Things Get Moving
When Things Get Moving
When Things Get Moving
When Things Get Moving
When Things Get Moving
When Things Get Moving

When Things Get Moving gallery
Science Center of Iowa

In May 2005, the Science Center of Iowa (SCI) opened a new 117,000 square foot $62,000 million facility in downtown Des Moines. Its innovation was a change-based planning strategy: after its inaugural “permanent” exhibitions had been up and running for several years, each of SCI’s main galleries would have funding in place to be revitalized in turn, using a highly practical approach – retain the most popular and effective components, remove the weakest, and add several new, high-engagement elements. The look and feel of the gallery would also be dramatically changed through large-scale graphics and a new lighting scheme. The resulting refreshed experience, re-themed and re-titled, would then be marketed as a new exhibition. When Things Get Moving, SCI’s physical sciences gallery, was the first to implement this strategy of planned change, with the opening of Toying with Science in March 2008.

When Things Get Moving focuses on science process and problem-solving skill development. Each of its primary activity areas features a large-scale element that offers opportunities for open-ended experimentation. In Power Up, one of the visitor favorites retained from the original exhibition, children and adults work collaboratively to generate as much hydro power as possible, constructing dams from modular parts and experimenting with water wheel placement.

One of the most popular new additions to the gallery is a high-attraction interactive ball wall. Participants manipulate the movement of colorful balls through a series of vacuum tubes, gears, a large tippy bucket and a conveyer belt, watching as the balls drop, launch, roll and bounce.

Another second-generation component is a rocket launching activity. Visitors are invited to build and launch paper rockets, experimenting with multiple design variables that affect how far and how straight each rocket will fly. “Firing” their rockets with a burst of compressed air, visitors watch as their designs fly across a test bed, then slide down a sloped plane where they can be retrieved for modifications.

One of the original components retained in the gallery is Land it Lightly, a high tech version of the classic “egg drop” physics experiment. In this version, a custom-engineered egg about the size of an ostrich egg is fitted with embedded sensors and a transmitter. To experiment, visitors have at their disposal a variety of padding materials that can easily be secured around the egg with Velcro straps. After the egg makes a trip up the tower and a 20-foot drop, impact data transmitted from the egg is interpreted as either a “splat” or a “safe landing” on a large LED display.

One popular new classic component, tailored to the underlying goals of Toying with Science, takes the form of a large, multi-user platform at which participants engage in open-ended inquiry into chain reactions by creating different courses of dominoes and predicting how they will fall.