Oasis Digital, working with St. Louis area A/V integrator RealityCramp provided technologies to the Life Science Lab, a hands-on exhibit that brings real life science experiments to visitors at the St. Louis-based science museum. The software used at the St. Louis Science Center is a combination of third-party off-the-shelf software, and a customized version of Oasis Digital’s Video Suite software.
In 2008, the St. Louis Science Center opened its Life Science Lab, a space dedicated to offering unique and scientifically authentic educational experiences to the public. Visitors explore the life sciences using scientific tools while engaging in experiments. The laboratory is a 4,700 sq. ft. section of the museum, where visitors can put on a lab coat, wear safety glasses and use the tools of real scientists.
“Almost a two year project in the making, our vision was to provide a space at the St. Louis Science Center where visitors could experience real science first hand and where we could bring an authentic science experience to the area,” said Cindy Encarnacion, Director of the Life Science Lab.
Oasis Digital Solutions Inc., a custom software development firm in St. Louis, was brought into the Life Science Lab project in the early stages. By engaging a software development, customers can discuss their current technology needs, future objectives and even share “big dream” ideas and explore the numerous possibilities before beginning the project.
“The team at the St. Louis Science Center had a vision for a new lab, and they came to us early in the process to understand, from a software perspective, what would even be possible as they sketched out their ideas for the lab. We provided insight, not only on what was possible for the launch of the lab, but what their needs might be in the future as they continue to advance the lab,” said Kyle Cordes of Oasis Digital.
As part of the technology team, RealityCramp, a consulting group specializing in technology convergence, audio/visual engineering and design and project management, extensively met with the team at the St. Louis Science Center as the design and construction of the lab developed. The Life Science Lab, with features such as touch screens, videos, cameras and microscopes, is designed to provide a clean, usable and authentic experience for visitors, and it is was important that the pieces work together.
“What we designed for the Life Science Lab, is an integrated multi-media application that takes digital video streaming from microscopes to the server that are then distributed anywhere in the lab, making the activities on the benches, such as extracting DNA, a possibility for visitors,” said Michael McNeil of RealityCramp. “Technology is truly at the core of this project.”
“A big part of the experience at the lab is the activity benches, which are self guided, so visitors take the time to go through each activity, step-by-step. And, the reason this works so well, is that Oasis Digital and RealityCramp have identified the best hardware and software to suit the experience in the laboratory,” said Encarnacion.
The solution deployed at the Life Science Lab contains a combination of custom software developed by Oasis Digital, multi-media modules developed by St. Louis Science Center staff, and off-the-shelf management software. These are integrated to make it possible for day-to-day operations of the lab, including technical issues to be handled by the staff of the lab with little IT assistance.
“We have anywhere from 50 to 300 users a day, so the computers and the activity stations are being touched over and over each day, so it is important that we can monitor visitors and their activities, as well as troubleshoot almost 90-percent of the problems ourselves, “said Lisa Carrico, manager of the Life Science Lab.
“The St. Louis Science Center had a vision for a high-tech lab with the technology completely behind the scenes, and unobtrusive to visitors. We were able to provide the hardware and software systems that allow the lab to work, are invisible to the user, and they can repair themselves,” said Cordes.
As part of the experience of the Life Science Lab, visitors participate in real life science experiments using real life science tools in a short period of time. Visitors may not have 24-hours to extract DNA, so the Life Science Lab allows them to have a successful, authentic experience in just 10 minutes.
“We had the dream of people exploring science using real tools such as micropipettes, microscopes, and magnifying something and learning about the sciences in a short period of time. But to make it happen, we need a team to come in and say “Yes, you can do that”. Oasis Digital and RealityCramp were the team that told us just that: “Yes, you can do that”.
Running on commodity hardware, the system provides a broad set of video capabilities: