New techPLAYground offers digital, and analog, interactive fun at SouthSide Works | Pittsburgh City Paper

New techPLAYground offers digital, and analog, interactive fun at SouthSide Works

click to enlarge The Children's Museum "Holding Hands" exhibit - PHOTO: COURTESY OF TECHPLAYGROUND
Photo: Courtesy of techPLAYground
The Children's Museum "Holding Hands" exhibit
Museums  are often places for quiet reflection and study, but a new collaboration between the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center is providing children a space where their participation with the exhibits becomes part of the art.

The techPLAYground pop-up, designed for children ages 10 and up, opened on Aug. 4, and will be open through the end of October at 2738 Sidney St. in Pittsburgh's South Side, in the SouthSide Works development. Students from CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center provided digital experiences to the MuseumLab pop-up, and children will also be able to explore physical and analog exhibits that are free and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 2-8 p.m.

“We are always excited to take play experiences beyond the walls of the Museum and techPLAYground represents the first interactive exhibit pop-up to come out of MuseumLab,“ says Children’s Museum senior director of creative experiences Anne Fullenkamp. “These digital-based pieces offer unique entertainment, learning and collaboration for both youth and adults.”


MuseumLab is both a learning space and an interactive museum, and the techPLAYground highlights this intersection through exhibits that explore the intersection of technology, art and design. Attendees will be able to scan QR codes to access the exhibits by CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center students, including “Alice,” a block-based programming environment designed to make it easy for children to create animations, build interactive narratives, or program simple games in 3D, and “Prism,” a game for children designed to engender understanding for those on the autism spectrum.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh contributed three exhibits that encourage play, physical movement, and connectivity. “Musical Chairs” puts a literal spin on the classic game and allows children to create music through sitting on and touching various parts of three chairs, and “Spinning Tops” reimagines a centuries-old toy by adding motion sensor technology that controls colored LED lights that change the faster the tops spin. Visitors are also encouraged to connect with others through “Holding Hands,” an exhibit that only reaches completion when two or more people complete an electrical circuit by following the suggestion of the exhibit name.

Artists Owen Lowery and Jordan Graves also contributed interactive art pieces to the pop-up. Lowery created “The Cryptid Simulator,” an addition to Lowery’s Cryptid Critter Crawl at the Children’s Museum that allows children to control the movement of a paper puppet cryptid through a Kinect depth camera, and Lowery uses similar technology in “Change the Code,” where visitors can alter numbers and variables that affect the scenes, colors, and patterns of the room. Mistakes and errors are rewarded in “Change the Code,” encouraging play without fear of failure or punishment.

Graves’ exhibit also encourages connectivity and art through collective action, both at the techPLAYground and beyond. Visitors at the pop-up and around the world can draw and share flower petals that become part of the exhibit in a digital communal field filled with the flowers of other visitors.

techPLAYground: 2738 Sidney St., South Side. museumlab.org