Reno Discovery Center: New Energy Gallery

Working with design firm Council Creative and the Reno Discovery Center staff, Chicago Scenic completed Energy / Energia, the new exhibit gallery about electric power and renewal that opened recently in Reno, Nevada.

The blog, NewtoReno, celebrated the opening of the new Energy/Energia exhibit gallery at the Reno Discovery Center with this line: “By featuring energy innovation happening right here in northern Nevada, visitors have the opportunity to explore foundational energy concepts, learn what it takes to solve energy challenges, and leave inspired to discover more.”

The team—led by project manager consultant Jill Randerson working with Chicago Scenic’s veteran, Jim Mallerdino—began collaborating in June 2021 to value-engineer the early design drawings, working through the details in order to fulfill the Center’s vision and still meet their budget parameters.

The new gallery is approximately 1,350 sq. ft. and is designed entirely around 18 interactives. The challenge of simple mechanical interactives is to keep them running smoothly despite constant visitor interaction of all ages and curiosity levels—and with a minimal amount of maintenance. “One of the best ways to build a reliable and repeatable interactive is to begin with prototypes,” Mallerdino said. “Early in the development process is the best time for us to test a variety of materials and fabrication methods; changes made during this stage can be done more cost-effectively than any other time in the process.”

One of the most exhibit’s most popular interactives is “Future City”, a game designed for two to four players by Martin Baumgartner, Angle Park’s founder and the creator of the game’s software and media. An overhead video camera projects a city map on the game board. The camera also projects various elements—a hydroelectric dam, power plant, solar farm, wind farm—and, according to Mallerdino, the game's objective is to balance the use of those energy types to create the most energy-efficient power usage possible.

As players move their Corian block game pieces around the board game, a reflector embedded in the game piece calculates the algorithms and determines in real-time how much energy is being consumed or saved, then notifies players when brownouts or blackouts are imminent.

The “Responsive Wall” interactive exhibit is located just outside the new Energy Gallery and acts as a colorful billboard to attract Center visitors. Sun ‘rays’ made from LED lights respond to visitors as they walk by and light up in an array of vibrant colors. In the center of the sun is a window portal through which visitors can preview the rest of the gallery space. Chicago Scenic programmed, wired and installed the LEDs for this exhibit.

“Crooke’s Radiometer” interactive, installed in a gallery window, features a series of radiometers—the clear objects hanging in rows in the window. As the sun increases the temperature, radiometers absorb more energy and that causes them to spin more rapidly. “It’s a simple but mesmerizing interactive exhibit that demonstrates the transfer of energy to motion and the power of sunlight,” added Mallerdino. Chicago Scenic developed, fabricated, and installed the interactive.

Picking the right partners is a critically important part of any project. “Angle Park, Inc., one of the interactive developers on this project, was invaluable,” Mallerdino said. “Their interactive exhibit development was as flawless as their reputation.” Other key partners were Color Reflections Las Vegas who printed and installed all graphics. IZONE printed the CHPL graphics that required the highest quality production and precise laminating; the Chicago Scenic production team installed the graphics.

The Energy/Energia exhibition was made possible by a generous grant from Tesla via the NDOE K-12 Education Fund. Why Tesla? Tesla has a major battery factory located in Reno: natural resource elements used in battery development exist in the land surrounding Reno. Those elements are mined locally, then efficiently transported to the Tesla factory nearby for use in battery production.

Want more information? Visit the Reno Discovery Center’s site here:

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