Burns & McDonnell creates interactive science and technology exhibit based on winning concept from Battle of the Brains competition.
Sometimes big concepts come in small packages. The Burns & McDonnell Foundation, Kansas City's Union Station and Science City collaborated to produce a new exhibit called The Science of Energy that packs an extraordinary, nuanced educational experience into a footprint of less than 3,000 square feet.
"We can't thank the associates of Burns & McDonnell and its foundation enough for coming together to create the most creative, interactive science and technology exhibit in the history of Union Station," says George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station.
The Burns & McDonnell Foundation-funded exhibit, following in the footsteps of the Engineerium and Science on a Sphere exhibits, grew out of the winning concept from the 2011 Battle of the Brains competition. The team of students from Olathe North High School partnered with Burns & McDonnell to select a highly visible location within Science City and flesh out the story of energy.
"It took a lot of collaborative meetings to hash out exactly what needed to be conveyed in the space," says Kent Yaros, a Burns & McDonnell senior associate architect. "There was a large amount of information, facts and figures to convey."
To enhance the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational materials, the team developed informational and interactive kiosks to accompany exhibits. An interactive table donated by Milbank Manufacturing offers hands-on learning about wind turbines and solar energy.
One of the crowning pieces of the exhibit is Imagine Energy, a large touch-screen wall packed with videos, informational and historical content, and even potential future career paths.
"Burns & McDonnell has committed to assisting in keeping that information updated, because many statistics become dated within a few months," Yaros says. "We will continue periodic updating so it remains fresh as a learning component."
Materials were vetted with educators as well as Burns & McDonnell engineers engaged in those fields.
"We used Burns & McDonnell engineers, other teachers and educators — plus Science City staff, who are also educators — to make sure it was a worthwhile investment in terms of foundation resources and visitors' time," Yaros says.
The goal in the space was to equally attract and hold the attention of children and young adults typically rushing through exhibits and those who wish to linger. Unlike large-scale projects, the difference is in the details.
"For an exhibit geared toward children and young adults, there's inordinate attention to the user experience — finish, color, texture, light, sound — to make sure it's balanced and enhances the experience," Yaros says. "When the user is up close, it requires high attention to detail and the durability of materials in interactive elements."