H2O staff and supporters toured facilities designed and built by firms interested in providing services on the H2O project. These visits included extensive on-site discussions with educators, display design specialists and facilities managers as well as a general tour and evaluation of facilities and the firms doing the design and construction. The goal of the tours was to determine applicability to H2O.
Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GRMI)
Lab Venture at GRMI in Portland, ME, was designed and built by staff of the GRMI in partnership with commercial design, technology and architecture firms.
Lab Venture was toured in June 2010. Tour participants learned that in 2008, 90% of all 5th or 6th grade students in Maine attended educational programs there. Lab Venture students eagerly take on the role of scientist to conduct hands-on research at multimedia-enabled lab stations. This immersive experience helps students develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to engage with environmental and technology challenges and think critically about new ideas. Each education session lasts approximately one-half day, with two sessions per day during the school year. There is no open public visitation and no “self-guided” exhibits. All fees and transportation costs are covered for each student. In total, an average 10,000 students have visited the facility each year since 2006.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida was toured in March 2011. The Space Center is the location of projects designed, built or underway by two of the firms making presentations to H2O. The two firms are the Bob Rogers Company (BRC) and PGAV Destination Consulting, both of which have designed and built numerous facilities.
PGAV is currently developing the Complex’s Master Plan and has done addition work there in the past.
Two recently completed exhibits were designed and built by BRC: the “Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted” exhibit and the “Shuttle Launch Experience.” The “Explorers” exhibit opened in 2010 and features extensive messaging to students, encouraging them to enter the fields of science, technology engineering and math. A multimedia/live stage presentation and interactive displays place students into the space program.
Both BRC exhibits accommodated large groups and focused on accuracy and scientific detail, as well as educational messaging. In addition BRC was credited with assembling a highly competent team, where members worked closely with Space Center officials and other experts. As examples: 1) The shuttle launch experience was designed to feel exactly like a real launch, based on involving shuttle astronauts in the design and testing of the exhibit, and 2) exhibit expense was focused on exhibits not on outside architecture. Exhibit funding was therefore focused on achieving scientific accuracy, versatility, manageability, durability, visual elements, lightening and so on, not on an architectural statement. Other features included innovative messaging; involvement of scientists to help translate complex subjects into simple and compelling messages, an aggressive time line and budget, impressive lighting and multimedia technology, exhibit flexibility for alternative use and updating, and use of highly durable materials in display and interactive exhibit construction.
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H2O (Headwaters to Ocean) is a cooperative project sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and funding partner, the Ewing Halsell Foundation which supports the project H2O. H2O is an experiential, technology-enhanced education program focused on water, from headwaters to the ocean (https://www.water-texas.org)