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NASA’s shuttle launch attraction

Rather then just providing information, BRC aims to provide inspiration to visitors of all ages


Matt Solari Carmel Lewis

ow do you attract different audiences? Carmel Lewis (CL): Young people have very different learning styles and expecta-

tions than a more mature audience, who understand the world slightly differently. However, both audiences are looking for the same thing – good is good is good. A great experience is going to translate just as well to a seventh grader as it will to a 70-year-old. When we work with science centre cli-

ents we suggest providing a big, overlay, emotional experience. It’s like dunking visitors into the deep end of a pool. You’re really immersing them in some kind of focused subject or content. Out of that experience, you have to provide them with the greater depth of content.

As attraction designers and developers,

we respect that we’re a part of a whole. A science centre has a whole offering. A big emotional experience of the kind that we produce is just as powerful as that one- on-one science experiment that happens between a scientist and a group of 20 kids. Both are equally important to the overall offer that science centres provide to their communities, particularly the children. Matt Solari (MS): We reach a large audi- ence across different age groups. We strive to fi re the imagination of the younger audience. If we can get the children to drag their parents or grandparents to the science centre, rather than being taken there by them, then we’ve succeeded in the mission. I’ve had grandparents come up to me and thank us. One young boy at the Kennedy Space Centre made his grandparents take him four times in one week. His grand- mother told us that she’d never seen him so excited about some- thing and how happy she was to bring him. That confi rms that our approach is working.

The interior of NASA’s simulator experience 44

What work did you do at the Kennedy Space Centre? MS: It was a project for NASA at The Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex. The challenge all the NASA visitor centres in the US face

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How do you design an attraction that engages today’s media-focused youth while gaining respect from mature visitors? Kathleen Whyman fi nds out from BRC’s Matt Solari and Carmel Lewis

is that they focus on NASA’s past achieve- ments. These are incredible and worthy of being showcased, but following the space shuttle programme’s retirement in August 2011, something needed to be done to engage and inspire a new generation. They were in danger of conveying to the youth of today that the golden age of space explo- ration had happened and they’d missed it, which isn’t an inspiring message. We sat down and looked at the demo-

graphics of the millennials – what are their interests? How do they learn? What gets them excited about things? Surprisingly, our answer came from within NASA. A group of young NASA scientists and engineers put together a presentation expressing why they enjoyed working at NASA, what their lives are like, what their formative experiences were and how these shaped the way they look at the world. This information helped us translate the objec- tives of our exhibit at the Kennedy Space Centre into an experience that really reso- nates with a younger generation. They’re engaged with the discoveries rather than being told what to think.

What were the challenges? CL: We’re trying to get kids interested in basic science, so that they want to study and go into career fi elds that will ultimately support everything from technology to space exploration to all the future fi elds

AM 1 2012 ©cybertrek 2012

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