You Might Have Been Our Guinea Pig: How we studied guests to hone better Sea Lab exhibits

Posted on September 30th, 2015

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By: MiaSci

As we move from our now-closed Coconut Grove location to the new Frost Science in downtown Miami’s Museum Park, we want to improve our exhibit experience. To do that, we used the month of August in our old location to test a few new exhibit formats and see how guests responded. To conduct our experiment, we exposed randomly selected Sea Lab visitors of all ages to two prototype exhibit components—fish identification guides and science videos—to see which format of each worked best.

With the fish guides, we presented four types of brightly colored fish guides: placemats attached to tank, placemats loose; four-page fan deck attached to tank and four-page fan deck loose.


Over nearly 20 hours of observations, we found that visitors clearly preferred to have the fish guide in placemat format and loose rather than tethered. As a bonus, they tended to spend more time viewing the fish when a loose guide was used.


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We then compared key behaviors and conversation cues for guests who used any type of fish guide versus those who didn’t. Those who used the guides were more likely to interact with museum staff and they discussed a broader range of topics while spending time near the aquarium.

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We also tested videos to see how long they should be and if language barriers were a factor. Two, approximately two-minute, videos about coral science and why it matters were available in kiosks within the exhibit space. Each video was started by pushing one of two buttons on the touch screen. English was the spoken language in each video with Spanish subtitles.


Each time one of the videos was started, we noted which video was watched and for how long. Children and adults on average watched a similar length of time. English speaking viewers tended to watch longer than did Spanish or other language viewers.


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Following the video, we asked visitors what they thought of the video and what they got from the video. Many visitors enjoyed the videos and felt they were informative or interesting. Some people found that with so much else going on around them that they were distracted while watching. With this data it seems that a shorter video with information presented in ways that allow understanding regardless of the viewer’s language will complement the exhibit in a more powerful way for more types of visitors.

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When you come visit us at the new Frost Science, be sure to check out how we’ve refined the Sea Lab experience for our new Living Core Aquarium—maybe you’ll see some of the discoveries we made here, or maybe you’ll be part of a new experiment we’re conducting.

Forces of Flight

Posted on September 30th, 2015

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By: MiaSci



As told by Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, curator of astronomy and exhibition developer, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science:

I write this as I wait to board a Boeing 747 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This majestic, four-engine, wide-body aircraft will take me and about 400 other passengers to Hawaii within a nine-hour flight. Flight is something we take for granted today but was only a dream a century ago when the Wright brothers were arguably the first to fly in a powered, controlled aircraft. Historically, many consider the dawn of aviation to be Orville Wright’s first flight aboard the Wright Flyer I on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, NC.

I often wonder what the first humans thought while looking up at a flock of birds flying free in the sky. For centuries, humans tried to fly like birds using wings made of lightweight materials. It was not until circa 1505 that Leonardo da Vinci published his “Codex on the Flight of Birds,” the first study of flight. Society as a whole later realized that if we want to reach the sky, we were going to do it on our own terms and not like a bird at all. Over time, humans have tried many different ways to fly.

In 1783, brothers Joseph and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier used their understanding of gas dynamics and the smoke of a fire to blow hot air into a silk bag creating the first hot air balloon. Since hot air is less dense than cool air, it rises. During the 19th century, once aerodynamics were better understood, English engineer George Cayley designed multiple versions of gliders that were controlled using the movements of the body. German engineer Otto Lilienthal was the first person to design a glider that could fly a person long distances. Lilienthal later died from injuries sustained during a glider crash.

Otto Lilienthal on Fliegeberg by Ottomar Anschutz, 1884

Otto Lilienthal on Fliegeberg by Ottomar Anschutz in 1884

Since Orville Wright’s first human powered flight we have been working hard to evolve the science of flight. We have endured, making flight faster, quieter, and greener.

The history of flight is complex and fascinating, but one question lingers, how do airplanes actually fly? In order to understand how, we need to first realize that like all liquids and gases, air is a fluid and that flight happens as a consequence of the interplay within four aerodynamic forces: thrust, drag, weight and lift.

Thrust is an aerodynamic force, caused by the engines that push or pull an airplane forward. The opposite aerodynamic force, drag, is the friction that resists an object’s forward motion through a fluid. One may easily experiment with drag by sticking his or her hand out of a moving car.

The most familiar force, weight, is the product of both gravity and mass and is a downward aerodynamic force. Since it depends on gravity, the weight of any object is, for example, larger on the Earth than on the Moon, where gravity is smaller. Weight’s opposing aerodynamic force is lift.

Like drag, lift exists only in the presence of a moving fluid or a moving object. It does not matter if the object is moving through the fluid or the fluid is moving around the object. What matters is the difference in speed between the two. The wing of an airplane splits the airflow in two directions: above and below. The airfoil shape and tilt of the wing causes the air moving over it to travel faster, as it does so pressure drops. The slower moving air under the wing exercises more pressure on it and the outcome is an upward push. In 1738 Daniel Bernoulli published his findings, which proved that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure. This is known as Bernoulli’s Principle.

One of the challenges of a science museum is to facilitate the understanding of complex scientific ideas in a resonating way. To learn about lift, visitors of the new “Feathers to the Stars” exhibition gallery at Frost Science will wear an airfoil sleeve and place their arm in a horizontal wind tunnel. They will feel the way a wing feels, and understand, first hand, the interplay of the four basic aerodynamic forces. Sleeves with different shapes will allow for an interactive and scientific approach to the exhibit.

Other exhibits in the gallery will look at other essential scientific ideas about the past, present and future of flight. “Feathers to the Stars” will take visitors on an inspiring journey from the evolution of animal flight, through the development of human flight and to the future of space exploration. It will open next summer as part of the new Frost Science in downtown Miami’s Museum Park. Onwards!

ONSITE Volume 11

Posted on September 9th, 2015

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By: MiaSci

As part of our ongoing effort to provide regular updates on the progress of our new museum, the ONSITE video series is a resource for us to connect directly with you. This month, Chief Operating Officer Frank Steslow takes you inside the Living Core Aquarium and gives you a preview of the science that visitors will encounter at Frost Science as our exhibit development teams work to create educational and engaging experiences.

The future begins here. Stay tuned for the next ONSITE!

RFP: Public Relations Agency of Record

Posted on September 1st, 2015

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By: MiaSci

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is seeking to identify and select a public relations agency to represent the new $300 million Frost Science currently in construction, to be located in Museum Park in Downtown Miami, Fl. This new highly sustainable facility will include a planetarium, an aquarium, both indoor and outdoor flexible space for science exhibits, and educational facilities.The museum is seeking an established agency who possesses local, national and international media relations; experience in crisis management, brand launches, and celebrity wrangling. The selected agency will be required to work with the museum’s internal communications team.

To obtain a copy of the RFQ, contact Paola Villanueva at Please provide the name of your company, location, main point of contact, and contact information with your request for the RFQ.

All qualifications packages should be emailed no later than 5:00 pm, EST, September 21, 2015.

RFP: Frost Science Innovation Labs

Posted on August 31st, 2015

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By: MiaSci

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is seeking to identify and select a partner to provide turnkey services for the design and development of the Innovation Labs, including permanent exhibition components, a Flexible Exhibit Furniture System, and interactive digital media components. The Innovation Labs represent one of four principal buildings that comprise the new $300 million Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, to be located in Museum Park in Miami, Florida. This new highly sustainable facility will include a planetarium, aquarium, both indoor and outdoor flexible space for science exhibits as well as educational facilities.

The museum is seeking a design firm, or consortium of firms, who individually or collectively possess the experience, skill, and knowledge to design the physical and digital experience of the exhibition. The museum intends to contract with a single entity, and encourages interested parties to assemble teams as needed. The selected design firm will be required to work with the museum project team and the museum’s appointed accessibility and exhibition evaluation consultant.

To obtain a copy of the RFP, contact Alexandra Kuechenberg at

Please provide the name of your company, location, main point of contact and contact information with your request for the RFP.

RFP requests will be accepted until Sept 23, 2015.

All responses are due to by 2:00 pm EST on October 2nd, 2015.

Frost Science Reaches Key Fundraising and Construction Milestones

Posted on August 20th, 2015

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By: MiaSci


Campaign Announces Two New Gifts and Surpasses $100 Million in Fundraising

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has reached key milestones in both construction and fundraising as the new, state-of-the-art museum makes progress towards its opening in summer 2016. To date, the museum’s capital campaign has raised $103 million through the support of generous private and public charitable groups and donors. This figure puts Frost Science in its final stretch of fundraising towards its $300 million total project cost, with $165 million granted by the Miami-Dade County’s Building Better Communities Bond Program in 2004.

Recent major donor gifts include $2 million from The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to name a gallery inside Frost Science’s Exploration Center that will house the River of Grass exhibit, an indoor-outdoor discovery space and digital environment where young children and their caregivers can explore the Everglades in a way that is adapted to their interests and needs. The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust supports the advancement of education at all levels. The Trust seeks out institutions, programs and activities that hold exceptional promise to become models or guides for more general and lasting value to American society. Additionally, Frost Science Trustee Dr. David Frankel and his wife Linda recently donated $1 million towards the campaign, further adding to fundraising momentum.

“We have exceeded $100 million in private and foundation fundraising – a huge milestone,” says Joseph L. Falk, Chair of the Campaign for Frost Science. “We are very grateful for all of the donations we have received, including the recent donations from The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust and Dr. David and Linda Frankel, and are well on our way to achieve our goal of $300 million for our public-private partnership.”

In addition to the fundraising milestones, construction is also progressing rapidly at the museum. The topping off of the museum’s Living Core Aquarium, home to the 500,000-gallon, three-story Gulf Stream Aquarium, took place in late July 2015. The Living Core Aquarium will house South Florida’s iconic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems: the Everglades, Mangroves, the Florida Reef and the Gulf Stream, and feature engaging experiences with working scientists.

Over the past six months, Frost Science has achieved several substantial construction milestones, including the steel columns that support the Living Core Aquarium roof being set in June 2015. Also, the installation of 16,984 blocks of GMU (“blue” tiles) on the exterior of the building began that month. These tiles are in three different shades of blue, giving a dappled effect. The museum also completed the installation of 70 pumps and filtration systems for the life support system for all the numerous aquariums. The pumps will be able to move 15,800 gallons per minute using high efficiency motors and variable speed technology for energy savings. Construction crews have also installed 29 sand filters to remove particulate contaminants from the water and 16 protein skimmers to remove organic compounds such as food and waste particles from the water. It’s a complex “behind the scenes” design, engineering and construction feat that will not be noticed by most visitors.


Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science said, “With each and every construction milestone we achieve at the new museum, it’s truly exciting to witness history, science and technology in the making. The museum and its science exhibits will inspire many generations to come, encouraging them to appreciate the immense impact that science and technology have on every aspect of our world.”