By Maurice Tougas
(Written for May/June 2023 Issue of the From the Hangar E-Newsletter)
Those of us of a ‘certain age’ certainly enjoy the Alberta Aviation Museum’s remarkable collection of vintage aircraft on its own merits. But a younger generation – those who grew up with touch-screen and video games – may need a little something extra to keep their attention.
Enter the museum’s new interactive video screens.
Thanks to a generous donation from Daytona Homes and the creativity of museum curator Ryan Lee, there are now five interactive video screens scattered throughout the museum, with more on the way.
In 2016, Daytona Homes had a touch-optimized website built that functioned somewhat similarly to an automotive build and price website. The website also listed information on what it was like to live in each community with maps showing the schools, churches, parks, and other points of interest.
These floor-standing touchscreens could be found in each show home sales center, which enabled clients to see the available home models across five cities, 50 communities, and hundreds of home models and variations. But in 2021, the Daytona show home sales center design changed, switching to a wall-mounted touch screen. So the floor-standing touchscreens were put into storage until a new home could be found for them – and that new home is the aviation museum.
The donated computers in the displays are standard Windows PCs, but programming them was anything but routine as curator Ryan found out.
Ryan looked into kiosk software, and what other museums used. He quickly discovered a problem – the cost.
Software developers could charge anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 – per kiosk. Displaying the kind of ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality that keeps a registered charitable organization like the museum running, Ryan set about figuring out how to do it himself.
“I haven’t done any programming since I was in elementary/junior high in the early mid-1990s, so the actual programming is fairly new to me. But there are thankfully a lot of tutorials out there.
“I looked online, and discovered that PowerPoint has a kiosk mode built in, so you can make a PowerPoint document that doesn’t automatically advance when people touch the screen; they have to hit a forward or back button to navigate, somewhat like a webpage. That means the user can’t exit out of the program, making them relatively secure and easy to keep running.”
Some of the games, like the multiple-choice quiz game and the jokes and facts programs, were relatively straightforward to program. Others … not so much.
“The colouring one is a bit more complicated. Each colouring sheet is broken down into dozens of custom shapes. At the bottom of the screen is an artist’s palette, with a couple of coloured circles. When a colour is touched, the program runs a macro that essentially says ‘remember this colour.’ Then when a shape is clicked on, another macro runs that essentially says ‘paint this shape as the colour we remembered’. Other macros reset everything back to white when the user returns to the main menu.”
Ryan spent about 75 hours on programming the five operating kiosks. The aircraft identification quiz one took a long time, since it required him to scan several hundred aircraft identification flashcards.
The games – Matching Game, the Aircraft ID quiz, Jokes and Facts and Mad Libs – have been a hit, utilized hundreds of times in one week in March alone. The Aircraft ID Quiz proved to be the trickiest, with 119 games started but only 36 completed, while, not surprisingly, Jokes and Facts was a big hit, with jokes outnumbering facts 243 to 51.
Tacada / Daytona Homes is celebrating 30 years in 2023. Founded by Ralph Hutchinson 30 years ago as Daytona Homes, Ralph and his sons are still involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.
The Hutchinson’s and Daytona Homes are proud supporters of many worthy organizations listed on our Daytona Cares webpage.