MobiusLab “A preview facility of Mobius ScienceCenter”Review - August 7, 2009Mark Walhimer
MobiusLab• Introduction• Survey and Mapping Findings• Impressions of PassPort to Discovery• Potential Next Steps• Potential Schedule• Video• Follow Up Answers
Executive SummaryI was very impressed with MobiusLab. The space is well located in a suburban mall of Spokane.The preview facility is well situated in the Northtown Mall, and the mall appears to have highvisitation of the targeted demographic of 8-12 year olds.The space has a fun welcoming feel and Chris Alexander (14 years old) does a wonderful job ofmaking visitors feel welcomed and interested in learning. The combination of the fourExploratorium exhibits, plus the exhibits made by volunteers and the PassPort to Discoverycreates the Science Center’s desired effect of an “Exploratorium atmosphere with a higher levelof finishes and a deeper level of layers of information”.On several of the interviews (six are noted) visitors mention that science is their favorite subject.My concern is that visitors are self selecting as visitors to the MobiusLab, a next step would beto interview visitors who do not like science and get their feedback.As next steps, I recommend a three phase approach to the opening of Mobius Science Center.Phase I; Over the next year continue to refine MobiusLab; Phase II open Mobius Lab 2.0 summerof 2010, and Phase III break ground on Mobius Science Center November 2011.Congratulations to Ward, Charlie, Amalie and Chris!
Introduction•MobiusLab Website http://www.mobiuslab.org/•Address:MobiusLabNorth Town Mall4750 N Division StreetSpokane, WA 99207(509) 482-4800•Ground level southwest corner of the mall next to Barnes and Noble and across from AT&T.Macy’s and Nordstrom’s in the same mall•Mobius Hours Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm; Sunday 10 am to 6 pm.•Approximately 800 square feet of exhibition space•Exhibition Cost $80,000•Total Operating Cost for Three months $150,000•$100 per square foot for exhibit rental, graphics, and additional exhibits
Exhibit Areas• Information / PassPort to Discovery check-in• Audio Lab, Oscylinder Scope, http://www.exploratorium.edu/cmp/exhibits/o/oscylinder.html• Magnetics Lab• Turntable, http://www.exploratorium.edu/cmp/exnet/exhibits/group_a/turntable/index.html• Chaotic Pendulum, http://www.exploratorium.edu/cmp/exhibits/c/chaotic_pend.html• Four Computer Stations• Tectonic Basin, http://www.exploratorium.edu/cmp/exhibits/t/tectonic_basin.html• Demonstration Area
Partial List of MobiusLab Team• Ward Merkeley,M.D., Board Member• Charles Simon, Interim Chief Technology Officer• Amalie Day, Board Member• Chris Alexander, MobiusLab Staff (14 years old)
The Science Center Spectrum• Science Centers exist on a spectrum with the Exploratorium defining one end of the spectrumand Adventure Science Center defining the opposite end of the spectrum.
Exploratorium• Highly interactive• Geared to tactile / kinesthetic learners• Lower level of finishes• Highly participatory• Staff culture to support high level of participation• More about what the visitor does than about what the visitor sees
Adventure Science Center• High level of finishes and theming• More geared to auditory / visual learners• Lower level of participation• Lower level of staff involvement• Lower level of staff culture of support• Highly experiential
Amalgam• Higher level of finishes• Higher level of participation• More geared to tactical / kinesthetic learners• Higher staff involvement• Staff culture to support high level of participation
Science Center SpectrumThe Board Members have had an on going conversations regarding the type of Science Centerthe group should build. Within the Board there has been a group that has wanted a ScienceCenter very similar to the Exploratorium and another group has wanted something more similarto Adventure Science Center. The two group’s desires are positioned at opposite ends of thescience center spectrum.MobiusLab’s combination of Exploratorium exhibits, “hand made” exhibits and PassPort toDiscovery; positions MobiusLab as an Amalgam of the two ends of the spectrum and is asuccessful compromise.
Survey and Mapping Findings• Over the course of two days I interviewed and mapped the behavior of visitors toMobiusLab. The overall findings of the survey and mapping were very successful. 24 peoplewere interviewed and mapped.• Targeted groups were children 8-12 years old• Survey and Mapping Participants:•(1) 12 year old, (1) 13 year old•(2) 11 year olds, (1) 14 year old•(1) 23 year old•(1) 32 year old, (1) 33 year old•(1) 18 year old•(1) 24 year old•(1) 20 year old, (1) 18 year old•(3) 17 year olds
Surveys• Asked three simple questions:1.Do you know what a Science Center is?2.Do you know what Mobius Science Center is?3.Do you like Science?• 5 of the 24 knew what a science was, only 1 of 24 participants knew of Mobius Science Centerand all of the participants said they liked science.• Of the people interviewed only one Science Center was known by name: Pacific Science Center• It appears that the people interviewed are self selecting. They are interested in science anddrawn to the MobiusLab. As a next step, follow up with interviews of people openly notinterested in science.
Mother and daughterFor each person I approached I was careful to ask the same question: “Hi, would you like to visitMobiusLab, a preview facility of Mobius Science Center?”, if they answered yes, I would askthem a few questions.A mother (approximately 35 years old) and daughter (approximately 7 years old) wereapproached and I asked them to visit the MobiusLab. They responded that they “don’t havetime”, they appeared to be put off by the idea of science.The same mother and daughter walked by MobiusLab twice more and each time I asked if theywould like to visit? Each time they responded “No”It would be interesting to gather a group of people not interested in science and interview them.
11 Year Old GirlI spent several minutes speaking with a 11 year old girl, Chateria, she appeared to be a Latina, Ispoke with she and her mother and Chateria stayed approximately 40 minutes. She was a veryarticulate young lady, spent several minutes at each station and used three of the Passport toDiscovery stations.As of my mapping she was one of only three people of the 24 observed that used the Passportto Discovery. When asked, if she liked science, she said “it was her favorite subject”. Whenasked what her second favorite subject was she said “math”. She was very inquisitive, spendingtime at each station and was very careful to spend time at at each exhibit.Chareria would make a perfect volunteer or employee, I would suggest making an effort toconnect to visitors like her. Again a next step would be to set up a volunteer program.
Latino FamilyOne group, a Latino family of five; two boys (one eleven and one fourteen) and smaller girl(approximately 6 years old) with a mother and father was approached. The family deferred to thefather as soon as I approached and I asked if they would like to visit MobiusLab. The fatherresponded “not from here” and was visibly nervous. I asked a second time addressing themother telling them MobiusLab was free and non profit. The mother thanked me, the boyslooked disappointed. The mother went shopping with the daughter while the father and twoboys waited outside the store. I approached the father and two boys a third time and the boysagreed to visit.The boys were very hesitant reading only the first graphic panel before touching anything,moving on to the second graphic panel not touching the exhibit, I then approached the boys andshowed them how Chaotic Pendulum worked. I then walked them over to Tectonic Basin. Atthat point they relaxed, even though they continued to look to their father waiting outsideMobiusLab for approval.It was clear that the father did not want to appear unintelligent in front of his family and the twoboys were very careful to be respectful of their father.
MappingVisitor Mapping is the process of watching visitors and recording how they use an exhibitionspace. I mapped 24 visitors.•Overall, the exhibition flow was found to be very positive. Visitors are able to easily navigatethe exhibition space and there appeared to be several paths through the space. There did notappear to be a visitor flow favorite by gender or age.• The number one first visited exhibit was the turntable•The number two first visited exhibit was the Tectonic Basin•The experience is non linear and allows for easy conversation between visitors•The MobiusLab staff involvement with visitors surveyed was kept to a minimum•Most visitors used the exhibit then read the label, 3 of the visitors used the Passport toDiscovery
Mapping•The exhibition flow is open and easily navigated. The 24 visitor paths through the space isvaried.•There does not seem to be a preference for exhibits by gender or age•Dwell time of 3-7 minutes per exhibit observed, an excellent dwell time•Demonstration area appears to be a draw for 14-22 year olds•Only one visitor was observed using the computer stations, I would suggest incorporating thecomputers into the experience instead of as separate station.
Group InteractionOne of the purposes of mapping is to see how people interact with each other.I believe Science Centers are the modern day “Town Hall”; a place for people to share opinions,and learn from one another. The current layout of MobiusLab allows several areas for visitors togather and play and learn together. The mapping showed; people gathered and had the longestdwell time at the turntable and the Tectonic Basin.
Impressions of PassPort to DiscoveryI enjoyed the process of PassPort to Discovery. It was cool to be registered and I felt as if I wasjoining a club. As I watched visitors follow the registration process they also seemed to beenjoying the process. Of the 24 people observed over the course of three hours I only viewed 3people using Passport to Discovery.I believe that the combination of interactive exhibits and content; such as Passport to Discovery,is the future of informal education. Such an undertaking is very expensive and not as simple asit seems. I would greatly simplify Passport to Discovery until you have one well functioningstation with a higher capture rate. I would also be very clear as to the business model for thedevelopment of the content. Updating of the content and usability is the first priority. I wouldestimate that such an undertaking would be in the $250,000-$500,000 range when completed. Iwould pursue a profit sharing model on the development of the system and sale of futuresystems.When I asked several people, “why are you not using the Passport to Discovery” one commentwas “it would be better if it was part of the exhibit”. To the visitors it seems to be separate fromthe interactive. There appears to be too large a shift in type of interaction between the exhibitsand the PassPort to Discovery.
Virtual EducationI had a very interesting conversation with Ward over dinner on Thursday night regarding thefuture of education. I am a member of InfoComm International, the largest organization ofapplied technology for museums and corporate venues. As part of InfoComm International thereare several levels of certification. I am currently a CTS Certified Technology Specialist, the firstlevel of certification. The certification process is split between online education and in personworkshops.Ward and I envisioned a similar model for Passport to Discovery; with pre-visit online packetscustomized to the visitor, in person learning at the Science Center and post-visit on lineeducation. We believe such a model is a great goal for Passport to Discovery.
PassPort To Discovery ContentMuseums and Science Centers rank as the number one trusted source for information.The content being delivered by Passport to Discovery needs to be accurate and in keeping withnational and state science standards. The number one concern is the content being delivered byPassPort to Discovery is closely aligned to the objectives of the interactive and is similar inmodality to the interactive and it is fun. Currently the content needs to be edited by MobiusScience Center advisors with additional layers of content available on line for pre and post visits.
Impressions of PassPort to Discovery•My first suggestion is to hire a media designer (several suggested in answers) to create a flowdiagram and story boards for Passport to Discovery.•One visitor commented “I don’t really need the kiosk (PassPort to Discovery)”, whenquestioned he felt that all of the information from the exhibit was either already on the label orapparent in in the exhibit. There needs to be a value added for PassPort to Discovery• An 11 year old girl responded “why do I need to use the kiosk?”. Potentially prototype ascavenger hunt associated with PassPort to Discovery•I don’t have sufficient data to support this, but subjectively females seemed more interested inPassport to Discovery than males. Several females were observed viewing the computerscreen but not using it.•Passport to Discovery Alien Computers seems overly exposed and unnecessary•Passport to Discovery Wizard seems cool•Passport to Discovery too much to read and learning curve too steep•Introductory Media needs to be installed
Impressions of PassPort to Discovery• Incorporate Passport to Discovery more closely with each exhibit• Create a flow diagram of visitor’s interaction• Test several screen layouts, with fun facts, videos or a game interface. The current interface istoo linear and contains too much text.• Create one option for the general public and create one option for each school grade.• Choose an avatar to be chosen by the visitor• Be sure all of the content is about the visitor. Use a consistent voice• Create a “physical” representation of the interactive, potentially a video as first screen for eachstation
Potential Next Steps• Currently MobiusLab is scheduled to be open for 60 days. It is planning to be closed the endof September. I recommend that the Mobius Science Center find a donor to underwrite thecosts of MobiusLab (approximately a $250,000-$500,000 naming opportunity) and theMobiusLAb stay open in it’s current location.• I would extend the rental of the Exploratorium exhibits until such time they can be replaced withsimilar exhibits. The replacement exhibits would be built locally from the ExploratoriumCookbook plans (approximate cost $40,000-60,000).• Plan on opening an expanded MobiusLab 2.0 in the Summer of 2010. MobiusLab 2.0 wouldinclude an exhibits building and repair shop to build and prototype exhibits as part of thepreparation of Mobius Science Center’s opening in 2012. A charge of $2 per person forMobiusLab 2.0
Overall Impressions• Location appears to be more of the desired demographic for Mobius Science Science than adowntown location. As an outsider it appears that people shop and relax in the area of theNorth Town Mall more than downtown• MobiusLab not listed on mall map, had to ask for directions• Asked a worker in the mall for directions and she was not aware of MobiusLab. Asked asecond worker in the Mall and she was aware of the MobiusLab location.• There appears to be a lack of Mall staff awareness of MobiusLab. A suggestion may be tohave an open house for NorthTown Mall workers.• Along with the word “Free” add “Non Profit” or “Museum” or “Science Center”. “Free” aloneseems similar to time share sales in the Mall atrium• Although without final graphics or cleaning, space has a neat purposeful look and feel.
Overall Impressions• Unclear that corner is a demonstration area, add signage with program times• Add a “Hacker Space”, with a take apart table and “Swap Shop”• Like workshop look and feel• Do survey regarding look and feel• Add introductory video for both PassPort to Discovery and MobiusLab• Add information about Ned Kahn and Norman Tuck• Customer servicing training for all staff• Create signage identifying each exhibit area
Overall Impressions• Confirm that PassPort to Discovery is aligned with national and state science standards similarto Discovery Science Center; http://www.discoverycube.org/education.aspx?q=44• Survey built into PassPort to Discovery and a written survey• Registration needs to be streamlined with thoughts given to customer service. “Why are youtaking my picture”, “what do I get?” The implied concern is can people trust MobiusLab?• Lighting seems adequate, but needs aiming and bulbs replaced
Mobius Kids• I would consider your options with Mobius Kids. I do not believe it is currently helping yourefforts with the opening of Mobius Science Center. Mobius KIds could potentially close untilsummer 2011 and reopen as a smaller part of MobiusLab 2.0• Creating a mixed message; are you a children’s museum or a science center?• Mobius Kids needs refreshing• Continued cost
Potential Schedule• MobiusLab opens August 1, 2009• Close Mobius Kids August 1, 2010• MobiusLab 2.0 opens August 1, 2010• Ground Breaking Mobius Science Center November 2011• Mobius Science Center Public Opening November 2012
Create Previews of each world as part of MobiusLab2.0• Life & The Human Body Preview, August 1, 2010• Energy & Technology Preview, November 1, 2010• The Natural World Preview, February 1, 2011• The Universe & Flight Preview, May 1, 2011• Mobius Science Center Ground Breaking November 1, 2011• Mobius Science Center Opening November 1, 2012
Favorite Science Centers1.Exploratorium2.Denver Museum of Nature and Science3.The Tech Museum of Innovation4.Museum of Science and Industry5.Science Museum of Minnesota6.Liberty Science Center7.California Science Center8.Pacific Science Center9.Discovery Science Center10.Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Favorite Exhibits1.Pin Wall2.Bed of Nails3.Recollections4.Lariat Chain5.Turntable6.Animation Table7.Scan your head8.Thermography9.Stream Table10.Aquarium with dump tank11.Runners Up12.Fitness Exhibits13.Arch14.Birth exhibits15.Psychology Tests16.Conflict Resolution17.Lift a car
Top 10 items for a new Science Center1.Understand and build your brand, always be consistent2.Customer service is your first priority, think through the visitor experience from the parking lotentrance to parking lot exit. Train, Train, Train your staff3.Have an exhibit icon4.Plan for your first through your third year of operation5.Have a soft opening6.Prototype, Prototype, Prototype7.Make sure you have a workable loading dock and plan your back of house, lockers, washerand dryer, storage as carefully as your front of house8.Have an exhibit building and repair shop9.Have sufficient parking10.Plan for your high capacity and low capacity days from a budgeting and staffing perspective
Potential Films• Powers of Ten, http://www.eamesgallery.com/cart/detail_prod.php?id=50• The Way Things Go; http://icarusfilms.com/cat97/t-z/the_way_.html• Ricahrd Feynman; http://photosynthesis.com/Richard_Feynman.html• Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision; http://icarusfilms.com/new2004/pro.html
TheaterI would recommend against a large format theater, instead I would recommend a smaller theater,with a seating capacity of between 75-150 people. The theater would have regularly scheduledshows, using 3D technology at an extra charge of $1 or $2 dollars. The theater can also berented for after hours business presentations. We used this model at Discovery Science Centerto great success
2008 Executive Director Yearly Salary• COSI, $175,300• Exploration Place $123,484• McWane Science Center $125,853• Museum of Discovery and Science $225,963• Sci-Port $112,990• Detroit Science Center $150,000
Potential Media Companies• Thup; http://thup.com/• Bean Creative; http://www.beancreative.com/default_flash.asp• Ian Rep, firstname.lastname@example.org