Building Science Adventures

In the Fall of 2008, the Science Adventure Lab was still just an optimistic idea in the minds of a few scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

But after Purchase a Miracle, Washington state’s premier grocery and drugstore fundraising campaign, became a founding sponsor, the design and development of the Science Adventure Lab launched into high gear.

Inside the Science Adventure Lab during and after construction.

The first step to designing the lab was to learn about existing labs and the advantages and disadvantages to particular designs.

Fortunately, through the Mobile Lab Coalition, an organization of science outreach programs with mobile components, it was easy to make connections with other mobile lab scientists.

At a Coalition conference in Baltimore, MD, scientists from Seattle Children’s were able to tour three different mobile labs and learn invaluable information from the scientists that worked on those labs.  Following a visit to the original mobile lab, City Lab at Boston University, the Seattle Children’s team was ready to move forward with designing and building the Science Adventure Lab.

After visiting the factory in Columbus, Ohio, the Science Adventure Lab team selected Farber Specialty Vehicles as the builder.

While Farber had extensive experience building customized medical vehicles and classrooms, no one there had ever custom built a mobile science lab before, so extensive original design work was required.

Fortunately Dan Dennison, an architect from NBBJ who had previously worked on the Seattle Children’s Research Institute lab design, donated extensive time and effort to designing the Science Adventure Lab.

Working extensively with the engineers at Farber and the scientists at Seattle Children’s, Dan drew on his laboratory experience and his familiarity with marine vessel design to

create the uniquely versatile, functional and attractive Science Adventure Lab.

Every detail, down to the texture of the wall and the color temperature of the lighting was deliberately considered to provide the very best experience for the students on the lab.

An important visual element of the Science Adventure Lab is the exterior graphic design. Working with the marketing department at Seattle Children’s and a design firm, the Adventure Lab scientists worked to create an exterior that would complement the science that would happen inside, while being eye-catching and attractive.

Numerous ideas were considered, but in the end, colorful and stylized, yet still scientifically accurate images of  viruses, neurons, red blood cells and other relevant items were included on the exterior of the Science Adventure Lab.

Inside the Science Adventure Lab during and after construction.

Now, not only is the imagery inspiring and exciting to the students, it also serves as a learning point for many of the modules on the Science Adventure Lab.

For example, in the Seeking the Sugar Solution module, students quantify the amount of sugar in a new beverage. After doing the experiment, students can go outside and see a larger than life glucose molecule.

As an added bonus, it turns out that everyone, adults included, is intrigued by the huge purple virus or the giant blue brain that is travelling down the highway!

A huge part of the success of the Science Adventure Lab is due to the thoughtful and deliberate effort that went into its design.

Once again, the Science Adventure Lab would like to thank everyone that helped make the lab such a great learning environment!

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One Response to Building Science Adventures

  1. Ann Renker says:

    The Science Adventure Lab is a fabulous way to increase student exposure to all STEM topics, as well as exposure to occupations which require the mastery of STEM skills. For children in rural areas, meeting the scientists from Children’s Hospital is almost as important as working in the lab itself. The students need to experience authentic links to STEM occupations as an aide in planning for life after high school. I was also grateful that the lab staff were flexible and engaging when we asked them to include a Parent Night before the students went to the lab. Markishtum Middle School operates with a philosophy that hard work brings success, and the lab staff worked this idea into their presentations as well. We are all thankful for the Science Adventure Lab program, and to the Science Adventure Lab staff for their great work with our students. Ann Renker, Principal – Markishtum Middle School and Neah Bay High School

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