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Watershed of the Future simulator update – Day Three of install

Things are shaping up – all of the computers and speakers are connected, and all eight touch screens are working. Basically, the simulator prototype is operational. Today will be spent installing the latest software updates and making sure everything is networked properly.

The "Watershed of the Future" simulator prototype, installed and (almost) ready for testing.

The “Watershed of the Future” simulator prototype, installed and (almost) ready for testing.

The first image shows the simulator in “single-player mode” – this is our default experience, where a visitor can come up to the table and use any one of the eight touchscreens to have their own experience.  A series of problems are available for you to examine, and each problem has three possible “projects” – these are different ways to address the problem. Each potential project will affect the health of the Lake, and also carry an economic and social cost or benefit. As you make choices, you are shown the results of each choice and warned if you are reaching a critical point .

In single-player mode, everything you do feeds your own version of the Lake, and so your results won’t depend on any other people at the table. It’s a great way to explore some of the issues facing the health of Lake Winnipeg. The central projection surface is used to show various lake images, and also when a big event like a storm or flood occurs – these events hit every player at the table, although your results will depend on what you have done in the game so far.

The simulator also has a “multi-player mode” – we’ll be using this when we have school groups booked, or when we can have a program leader interpreting the exhibit. In this case, all eight screens feed a single model of the Lake shown using the central projection, and so the results depend not only on what you do, but what others at the table do as well.  The program leader can encourage discussion and debate, and just like in real life, good results depend on everyone working together.

In multiplayer mode, there is also a new feature we’re calling “polls”. Some issues are too broad to be narrowed down into projects, and these show up in multi-player mode as a question on the main projection surface. Everyone is asked to vote on a given poll issue, and the majority vote determines which option is fed into the model. Again, having a program leader present can help spark debate and discussion, leading to informed voting and a deeper understanding of the issues.

Watershed of the Future simulator in multi-player mode, showing one of the polls.

Watershed of the Future simulator in multi-player mode, showing one of the polls.

Once the simulator is installed, we will be running it through testing to make sure it works as intended, and also to make sure it is fun to play. If you are interested in volunteering as a tester, contact me at [email protected] and I’ll provide more information. This is a volunteer opportunity, but you can help us make this important exhibit the best it can be!

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Scott Young

Manager of Science Communications and Visitor Experiences

“Scott is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, developing astronomy and science programs. He has been an informal science educator for thirty years, working in the planetarium and science centre field both at The Manitoba Museum and also at the Alice G. Wallace Planetarium in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Scott is an active amateur astronomer and a past-President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.”