Autovation: CMDC and OMSI

A visitor checks out an iPad at the Autovation exhibit.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a big deal around here.

School children look forward to field trips. Families spend whole days getting lost in the exhibits. Visitors who are lucky enough to stop at OMSI leave Portland with lasting memories. So for 10 Washington State University Vancouver students in the creative media and digital culture program who played a role in designing a permanent display for OMSI, it was a “name-in-lights, Hollywood-premiere” experience to open the exhibit in June.

“Autovation” is on permanent display in OMSI’s turbine hall. At first glance you see a suspended car body stripped to its frame, but technology is the star of this show.

Using installed ipads or personal smartphones, visitors point to a hotspot on the car’s frame to reveal deeper information. The exhibit uses words, pictures and video to illustrate the safety, fuel efficiency and the ground- breaking technology of the modern automobile. State-of-the-art augmented reality is the technology that lets car engines seemingly float in space and crash-test dummies give lessons on safety.

“Autovation” is the ultimate collaboration. OMSI provided the space and did the structural work for the physical aspect of the exhibit. Dick Hannah Dealerships provided funding and built the car frame, and WSU Vancouver’s creative media and digital culture students conceptualized the exhibit and developed the computer technology.

Visitors check out the exhibitDick Hannah, president of Dick Hannah Dealerships, characterized the project as a great marriage of three organizations.

“We finished a strategic plan about a year ago and a big idea came out of it,” said Mark Patel, OMSI’s vice president of marketing, retail and sales. “We wanted to showcase innovation and engineering. We wanted to bring people together. And we wanted to work with students and big business.”

Dick Hannah Dealerships got involved because of its interest in supporting programs that provide local students with training and experience that will prepare them for the workplace. This is Dick Hannah Dealerships’ second project with students from WSU Vancouver’s CMDC program. The first project resulted in a mobile application aimed at providing customer care for Dick Hannah Dealerships’ customers.

The students involved in the project began their journey last summer. First they conceptualized the exhibit and pitched the concept. They also designed and developed all of the interactive components, which required coding, programming and media production. They poured over hundreds of pages of research before beginning work in earnest.

The real work began in the fall, and the crew worked straight through Thanksgiving, winter semester break, spring break and most of the students kept working after graduation in May.

“It was like having a part-time job,” said Michael Langlois, a digital technology and culture major. “I lost a night of sleep about once every two weeks. I’d work at a steady pace and all of a sudden it just wasn’t fast enough. At one point I made three videos in four days.”

Jason Clarke, a digital technology and culture major who is expecting to graduate in December, worked on 3D modeling.

Group shot of students involvement in the project“The technology part of this is basically an iPad video game. This technology is not always well documented, and I spent a lot of time Googling and winging it to figure out how to make it all work,” said Clarke.

Kerri Lingo, who graduated in December with bachelor of arts degrees in English and digital technology and culture, saw the project through from beginning to end. She was the project manager and handled all the communications and coordination between OMSI, Dick Hannah Dealerships and WSU Vancouver.

“You get so close to a project working through obstacles and challenges. To release it is really bittersweet,” she said.

Lingo accepted a job at Dick Hannah Dealerships after graduation and helped organize the exhibit’s premiere party in June.

“’Autovation’ represents everything we believe in, in our program,” said Dene Grigar, associate professor and director of the CMDC program. “First, the project is cutting edge, which is a quality the CMDC values highly. Think about it, ‘Autovation’ is the first digital media exhibit at one of the nation’s premier science museums and WSU Vancouver students came up with the idea and developed it. Second, the project shows that this kind of work—that is, digital media production—has at its core a deep connection to scholarship and that undergraduates can play a leading role in such an experience. And finally, it speaks to civic engagement, a cornerstone of the CMDC program, as well the need to develop partnerships with businesses and non-profits. Our students and faculty benefit greatly from these kinds of initiatives.”

“I got way more out of my education at WSU Vancouver than I expected,” said Langlois. “We have had the opportunity to meet with businesses and network. None of my friends who attend other universities have had this kind of opportunity. And we have an exhibit in a museum—how cool!” Michael Langlois

Cars today are packed with technology and as technology changes, so too can the “Autovation” exhibit. The exhibit can be updated and changed over time, perhaps giving the next class of CMDC students an opportunity to make a lasting impact and have a “name-in-lights” experience.

The students of “Autovation”

Jason Clarke - 3D modeling, currently employed at Instructional Technologies

Jason Cook - Coding for iPads and iPhones

Hunter Crawford - User interface design and development, currently employed at Instructional Technologies

Natalya Gruntkovskiy - Coding for iPads and iPhones

Jacob Hochhalter - Content development

Madi Kozacek - Content development

Michael Langlois - 2D animations for videos, currently employed at Instructional Technologies

Kerri Lingo - Project management, currently employed at Dick Hannah Dealerships

Chad McClure - Design and coding

Brian McGovern - Usability testing and content development margarete strawn - User interface design and development, currently employed at Instructional Technologies