Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Science on the Move: A Guest Post From OMSI's Kyrie Kellett

Kyrie Kellett, an exhibit and program developer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon was kind enough to share this guest post about the National Science Foundation funded  "Science on the Move" project.  Pictured above is the Chicken Scene Investigation (CSI) prototype at the Rose Quarter Transit Center in Portland.

What do you remember about your day? Your commute? Your neighborhood? For me, the things that catch my attention are the experiences that seem out of place, novel, silly, or just plain weird.

That’s what the Science on the Move (NSF DRL-1222659) project wanted to play with. How would people respond to a science exhibit at a light rail station or busy bus depot? In a museum we expect to see the extraordinary, but while waiting for the bus?  Would people be interested? What would catch their attention? Would they understand that it was about science? Would science turn them off?

To research these ideas, my colleagues at OMSI and I created two prototype exhibits and worked with the local transit authority to set them up at busy transit centers, one near the central city and one in a lower-income suburb. We then used design-based research to iteratively improve the exhibits and our model for how people interacted with the exhibits.

What did we find? Lots of interesting things! For example, we found that the OMSI logo was a big draw. When people of all ages, income levels, and from all parts of the region saw OMSI, they figured it would be fun and wanted to participate.  They were not scared off by the possibility of “science” at all.  That said, even though the exhibits were from OMSI, many people didn’t explicitly connect their experiences with science.  Since the exhibits were not in a science center, it took a lot more work to connect chicken coops and special effects to science or technology than if visitors were in the museum expecting to learn about STEM topics.

Our next step with this project is to start more conversations in the museum community about how and why we should (or shouldn’t) be experimenting with taking our exhibits outside of museums and into unexpected places.

Want to hear more? Please check out our “think piece” on the topic, a downloadable PDF entitled "Tripping Over Science: Taking STEM Exhibits Outside of the Museum" (

Have something to share or want to collaborate? Please contact me at:

Kyrie Kellett is a senior exhibit and program developer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon.  She has worked on a variety of federally-funded projects related to sustainability, inclusion, and new approaches to informal science education.

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