The Children's Museum of Science and Technology in Troy, New York was founded in 1954 and is located in the Rensselaer Technology Park. Its mission is to be the premier science center in the New York Capital Region where kids and parents can explore, discover, and imagine the world of science together.
John Graydon Smith joined the museum as President and CEO in the summer of 2006 with the vision of taking an already great institution to the next level. He wanted to bring a new vitality to the museum and make it an integral part of the community.
One of John's goals was to make the exhibits and displays more interactive so kids and parents could learn together in a more entertaining format. To this end, John came up with the idea for an interactive weather exhibit where kids and parents could conduct a live weather forecast in front of a green screen in precisely the same manner as forecasters do it on the local news each evening. At the end of this exhibit experience, kids could replay their forecast on a nearby TV to see just how well they had performed.
There was only one problem with John's vision: small children do not follow complicated instructions very well. Children, some as young as three, would have to proceed through approximately 10 discrete steps with perfect timing to make their forecast recording. John knew that this just wasn't going to happen in practice, and he did not have the funds to dedicate full-time personnel to supervise and instruct the children. Faced with these limitations, however, John wasn't about to abandon the idea. He could certainly imagine a scenario in which the entire process, including sequencing, instruction-giving, video editing, and final screening, was automated. He wondered whether this level of automation was commercially available.
John turned to Bob Maloch, President of 84West, a company experienced in designing and building interactive weather displays, to find out if he could get his exhibit automated in less than a month. Bob called his old friend Malcom Murphy, who happened to be his go-to guy when he needed to overcome any technological hurdles. After understanding the technical requirements the museum mandated, Malcom proceeded to evaluate a half dozen different automation software packages. After a week's worth of evaluations, Automate emerged as the clear winner because of its breadth of capability and flexibility.
Malcom combined the functionality of Automate to enhance and automate the functionality of another video software package to prototype the solution. Once the prototype was successful, Bob and Malcom were confident they could deliver John Graydon Smith's original vision. Within a month from the initial call from the museum, Bob and Malcom implemented the new system, much to the satisfaction of John and the museum's staff. In the end, they delivered the completely automated, foolproof exhibit shown below.
According to John Graydon Smith, the weather forecast exhibit is "one of the best, if not the best display in the entire museum. It is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that utilizes science and technology in new ways. And it is the only one that completely dummy-proofs the process so that even a two-year old can participate. The kids and their parents just love it."
For Bob Maloch, helping the museum realize its vision was rewarding enough, but a great bonus is the system he and Malcom created opens up an entirely new market for his company. Already, four other museums are interested in purchasing interactive displays, not just weather forecasting exhibits, but completely new exhibits incorporating video and automation. Bob, who sells manned-displays to corporations for trade shows and other promotional activities, believes he may be on to something big.
Large corporations are searching for better, more interactive ways of reaching out to their customers and target markets. This new technology and solution gives the power and flexibility to create a wide array of interactive displays that large corporations need.