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watch seeds grow
Get an up-close look at corn and squash seedlings at two stages of growth.
For this exhibit, I began by conducting research into the biology of early seed growth and root formation. My prototyping focused on two areas: the visitor engagement model for the exhibit, and the biology of the exhibit or how to easily grow the seedlings and make maintenance quick and easy for staff. I fabricated parts and assembled the final exhibit before installing it onsite in Omaha, Nebraska.
Growth Container and Conditions
Through testing, I determined that these seedling roots respond to gravity but are unaffected by light. In the final exhibit, the plant containers are tilted one degree forward to encourage root growth against the front of the container, and there was no need to cover the roots between visitors to limit light exposure.
The plant media needed to keep the roots visible and simulate real life plant growth outdoors. After testing garden soil, agar, and gravel, I chose coconut coir for its uniformly dark and soil-like appearance, great drainage and ease of sourcing.
Planting Time Intervals
Although I experimented with seedlings at four stages of growth, I ultimately chose to highlight two. This allows the maintenance staff to vary the timing in between planting as needed and to adapt if one plant cassette dies due to an organism infestation.
Many investigation methods were explored to see what yielded the best visitor experience: handheld microscope, motor-driven microscope, handheld magnifying lens, magnifying lens on a track, viewing with the naked eye. I referred to existing exhibits on the Exploratorium floor when evaluating a lens on a sliding track and a motor-driven microscope to reduce prototyping time.
One of the biggest design challenges was creating the plant cassette while balancing the visitor experience and the staff maintenance experience. In each iteration, I experimented to reduce weight, eliminate condensation, improve ease of opening the cassettes for cleaning and planting and to encourage root growth on the clear front of the cassettes.
3D CAD Model and Electrical
I created multiple iterations of the 3D model of this exhibit in Inventor as I prototyped and progressed the design. Once the design was finalized, I created the manufacturing package with all relevant part and assembly drawings and the electrical schematic for the video monitor (showing looping audio of corn and squash seeds sprouting) and the LED lighting in the plant enclosure.