Ship Museum's Interactives Engage Young, Old alike.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(TECH MAGIC)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

Ship Museum's Interactives Engage Young, Old alike.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(TECH MAGIC)


Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NORFOLK - Just one of the challenges of renovating Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, a few years ago came when a bit of technological magic was added to explain the origins of the USS Wisconsin - one of the largest U.S. battleships ever built.

With the hopes of effectively conveying information on all aspects of the 58-year-old ship, the designers had to walk the plank carefully to create exhibits that were engaging to younger, computer-savvy visitors but also accessible to war veterans.

"In order to get the educational aspect of what we are trying to broadcast across to the kids, technology is important because when they spin a wheel, if something doesn't come out and bite their heads off, they lose interest," says Pamela Gillespie, technical systems supervisor for Nauticus.

"On the other hand, we didn't want our interactives to be so involved that their operation would detract from the content."

Nauticus has been around since 1994 to educate the public on the power and history of the sea through the use of a wide variety of multimedia displays.

On Dec. 7, 2000, the USS Wisconsin, or "Whiskey," parked alongside the center, bringing with it a place in history books. Besides its immense size and speed, the battleship has been deployed in three American conflicts since it was commissioned during World War II.

Visitors first glimpse the massive battleship while approaching Nauticus, but once inside the center, they get a whole new view of the ship by looking out Nauticus' third-floor windows down onto the ship's teak deck.

The high-tech meets the traditional through a 30-minute interactive presentation titled "Design Chamber: Battleship X." The presentation brings to life how the Whiskey was commissioned by the government in 1944 in response to the possibility that both Japan and Germany were building more powerful warships.

Within the design chamber's interactive arena, visitors are seated and quickly begin learning about the shipbuilding process as they listen to and watch digital displays of specialists providing information on overall size, weight, fuel capacities and armaments necessary to take on the latest enemy ships.

These experts help the audience understand the technical design issues of the ship through a series of interconnected elements. For example, if the ship's overall size and weight is too big, it may be too slow to outmaneuver enemy ships and also may require extensive stores of fuel that are difficult to obtain while traveling in the middle of an ocean.

"We offer this information through a theater presentation that employs live actors working with and against a computer-driven video backdrop," Miss Gillespie says. "The result is that by combining high-tech equipment with human interaction, we were able to create a visually engaging, three-dimensional experience that explains the very aspects of designing and building an Iowa-class battleship." The Iowa-class ships, the first World War II-era battleships not encumbered by treaty limits, have been praised as the best-ever in firepower, protective ability and speed. …

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