Science On a Sphere: Front-End Evaluation Report

May 25th, 2006 | EVALUATION

The Science Museum of Minnesota prototyped interpretive approaches to using an innovative scientific visualization system developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called Science On a Sphere (SOS). SOS is composed of a wide variety of visualizations projected onto a six-foot sphere creating animated, whole-planet views of the Earth, other planets in our solar system, and their moons. Visualizations of the Earth cover topics such as weather, climate, topography, earth system dynamics, and geophysical processes. A challenge of SOS is making the content accessible and engaging as a stand-alone exhibit where visitors can interact with SOS to create their own meaning from the content rather than simply reacting to its visual displays. This report discusses a front-end study carried out to start addressing this challenge by providing baseline information about visitors'€™ reactions to the Sphere, how they comprehend the visualizations, what they would like to see on the Sphere, and interactions they would like to have with the exhibits€™ content. During the study, a series of four narrated NOAA visualizations (Blue Planet, Topographic Earth, Wild Fire, and Earth at Night) were projected onto the Sphere and played continuously. Observational data was gathered to understand how visitors viewed the visualizations and how long they stayed at the Sphere. Upon leaving the exhibit, visitors were interviewed to gauge their reactions to the Sphere, understand their comprehension of the visualizations, and gather feedback about potential exhibit interactions and visualizations. Evaluators observed 81 visitors and interviewed 50 visitors. Key findings include: 1. The loop of four visualizations ran 6 minutes and 55 seconds. Visitors spent a median time of 3 minutes viewing the Sphere. 2. Almost three quarters of the visitors circled more than half of the sphere. 3. Visitors were most frequently interested in the technology of the sphere. 4. Of the 21 visitors who found something confusing about the exhibit, the most common confusion (42%) was where to stand when viewing the Sphere. 5. Almost all of the visitors showed an interest in picking the images on the screen and in being able to select temporary labels to be shown on the images. 6. Visitors had a wide range of interests in visualizations they would like to see on the sphere including astronomy, weather and climate, geography, geology, and biology. The timing sheet protocol and interview questions used in the study are included in this report.



Team Members

Amy Grack Nelson, Evaluator, Science Museum of Minnesota
Kirsten Ellenbogen, Evaluator, Great Lakes Science Center


Funding Source: NOAA


Audience: Evaluators | Families | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Climate | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography | Space science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Front-End | Interview Protocol | Observation Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Planetarium and Science on a Sphere