My Year with Interactive Exhibit Design

Once again the end of a semester has come and it’s time for me to dwell upon the lessons learned with technology.

This semester, we were given one project to work on all year, ending in a final showing during out last class.

I partnered with Erica Gagnon, who also wrote about this lovely experience, and together we set out to create a cool way to display history in a public setting.

I thought about old TVs, (you know, the one’s with the bunny ears and static and wooden frames?) and how it might be cool to incorporate them into something history related. After all, who doesn’t love TV and bunny ears?!

In on of our first classes, we went around the table and threw out ideas. This was the one I suggested.

And luckily for me, Erica liked it! Which is how our beautiful partnership began, and we went to the drawing board to create something extraordinary.

We thought we would have a number of “Canadian” moments (we started thinking somewhere around 10) and then thought it would be cool if you could push a knob on the TV and go to other historical moments for other areas of the world. Grand, grand plans.

Which of course got reduced.

We settled for Canadian moments and we further settled for two Canadian moments. Because that was enough to figure out!

Erica and I used Max6 (a program that has been discussed previously on my blog) and Phidgets to come up with…




But this is jumping ahead to the finished product and making it look FAR too easy. Creating this baby took some time.

We played around with Max6, trying to figure out how to make the slider phidget work with the program and play a video. We figured that made the most sense, you would slide a knob along a track and that would trigger the video. With this in mind, and with help from our professor Bill, we eventually came up with a patch on Max6 looking like:


Basically, static would play until you moved one bunny ear to a certain point along the slider and then a video would play. If you kept moving the bunny ear, you would hit more static and then the second video. Interestingly, the videos were on a continuous loop so they didn’t restart every time to triggered them, much like on an actual TV.

So. What next? After this, we actually had to get those pesky videos…

Turns out, getting videos off YouTube isn’t as easy as clicking a button. We tried a bunch of different methods for downloading them before finally finding one that worked. Thanks to Marco Chau’s YouTube video we were finally able to download the videos.

We chose the Canadian men’s hockey team winning the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics and then part of a Justin Bieber concert, just for fun.

Once the videos were downloaded, we converted them into .mov or .mp4 and inserted them into our Max6 program.

There were some technical difficulties in that the noise from the videos would play through the static (we were hoping for silence) that we didn’t have time to fix, but ultimately, it worked as we had hoped!


Dang! Static! Where’s our TV program?!?!


Oh now that’s much better!

With the technical part done, it was time to get crafty. With only two classes to go until presentation day, Erica and I began building a TV with our bare hands…


We used the cover the Mac computers come in to protect the computer screen…


Our “old school” TV frame…


How we fastened it on… Yes, those are rocks. It’s called being resourceful, people!


Look at that wood panelling! We used bottle caps covered in tape for the knobs and a mesh bag for the speakers.

And we ended up with the finished product you saw earlier in all its glory!

All in all, I have to admit, this class didn’t defeat me as I thought it might. Having a partner like Erica, who just gets technology, was incredibly helpful, as was having Bill as our prof. He let us flounder and try to figure things out for ourselves and if we couldn’t, he would swoop in with a suggestion or some advice.

I greatly enjoyed working with these different technologies and seeing what everyone else came up with. It was a learning experience I hope to take with me and apply in the field.