This dinosaur exhibit refurbishment consisted mainly of graphic work, with the exception of a fossil-replacement project.
The documentation on the 12-year-old exhibit was sparse, and the original builder would not return our calls, so we had to conduct experiments to determine the concrete formulas that would best match the existing concrete.
The structures could not be moved, so we built a dust containment structure and worked on the concrete in the gallery.
We cut out the old pieces using a large angle grinder, hammer drill, reciprocating saw, hammer, and cold chisel.
We supported the new pieces with concrete, and made future replacement easier by adding a layer of plastic between the new fossil and the concrete below. The fossils are secured by the concrete around the perimeter.
Above: a new fossil, ready for exploration
I served as project lead. In addition to museum staff, I had help from high school interns Ben Lapidus and Avi Wilcox. I taught them fabrication skills and they provided labor and dad jokes. Fossil casts were provided by the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
When I found out we were paying $200 every few weeks to replace the mechanical robot in one of our exhibits, I knew there had to be a better way. I worked with volunteer Paul Stankiewicz to create a durable, low-maintenance, and affordable replacement. The Robo Crab uses an over-sized motor, linear guide rail, and pivots with bushings and shoulder screws.
Materials cost around $200, and thanks to Paul’s generosity, it only took a little bit of my labor to manage the project.
When it comes to hands-on exhibits, I usually favor mechanical solutions over electrical because mechanical methods are more obvious to the user, often allow for wider exploration, and often require less maintenance. However, there are times when circuits make sense. I have the ability to design and implement simple circuits, including PCB design and integration with consumer/commercial electronics.
I was tasked with creating a camera setup that would allow visitors to remotely view birds at a feeder. Unable to find a kid-proof control interface, I created a controller that allows a pair of Suzo Happ analog joysticks to control a Sony EVID70 commercial grade pan-tilt-zoom camera.
The software allows a technician to easily change various parameters (such as maximum zoom, pan/tilt ranges) with a laptop via a serial interface.