Turtle Bay’s Beehive gets new interactive features, thanks to volunteers!

Not all exhibits here at Turtle Bay come from employees or professionals. Two brothers and enthusiastic teen volunteers, Erick and Luke Blankenberg, are currently designing and fabricating an add-on for our beehive exhibit. Thrilled with the idea that they pitched, the Exhibits Department is allowing them to be fully hands-on with their project while also making themselves available as consultants regarding fabrication and design. These young men have been hard at work to bring a new experience and further bee knowledge to Turtle Bay visitors. Read on to learn more about their project–straight from the Blankenbergs.

The Beehive is located in the Resources Gallery in the main museum

Erick: My brother and I are currently building an add-on for one of Turtle Bay’s most interesting exhibits: the transparent beehive. We believe that there is a lot to learn about the world of Apiculture. Our goal is to design an exhibit that will convey as much of this information as possible in a format that is easily accessible to the everyday visitor.

The end goal off this project is to not only increase the visitor’s knowledge of the role that insects play in agriculture and their biology, but also to improve awareness of issues that are faced by these populations. If visitors can appreciate the complexity and significance of bees, then they will understand the importance of combating the multitude of environmental issues, both natural and man-made, which plague them today, and will adopt a conservational mindset.

Our first step was planning our project. Both my brother and I have been volunteers at Turtle Bay for many years and we are both involved in Eagle Scout Projects (Turtle Bay was the beneficiary of my project). We already had some experience with development and scheduling, but we had never tried to build something for direct public use.

After some discussion, we decided that a computer kiosk would be best. We want visitors to be able to access knowledge not only in written form, but also as graphical displays and in interactive systems that would augment their understanding of the living hive. Seeing the bees attend to the comb is interesting, but to know what the bees are actually doing you need to know the numbers. We hope to eventually incorporate a sensor system into the hive to monitor the hive and to provide visitors context to what they are seeing.

We proposed our ideas and a tentative timeline to the Turtle Bay Museum Staff, who approved the project. We then began work with Mrs. Cronin, the Collections and Exhibitions Manager, who then referred us to Mr. Doig for guidance in engineering and carpentry to build the kiosk, and to Ms. Blankenship for direction in the layout and color scheme within the PowerPoint.

We decided that the best way to present the textual information was through a chapter-based system divided into three complexity levels. New visitors can read through the key ideas quickly, returning visitors could come back to where they left off, and veterans could keep coming back. Our intention was not to have visitors read all of the chapters at once, but to read one section or a few at a time. To come back repeatedly to eventually read the whole mountain of information.

Our first step was to design the kiosk itself. We decided that the best way to approach this was to build a box that would hang off of the side of the existing beehive. This way we could easily route power to the kiosk through the base of the hive, and we might be able to integrate sensors and interactive materials with the live hive later. We want this kiosk to be easy to modify to promote further development of the beehive in the future.

Here is an image of our current kiosk design:

Rendered with Google Sketchup

We also built a mockup of the kiosk in 1:1 scale in order to have an idea of how large the kiosk would actually be and how it would fit on the beehive:

Full-scale model next to my brother, Luke. This is an older design, but is roughly the same size

 Our next step was to establish a design for the kiosk presentation. We needed to build a high-contrast background that meshed well with the color scheme of the museum as a whole.

We initially selected colors from images of live beehives, but the colors were not visually pleasing and did not match everything else. We also tried a number of patterns before eventually settling on the last type:

We then sampled colors from a more artistic photograph of a beehive and lightened them to enhance contrast with the slides:

After that, we applied the background and sampled colors from existing exhibits within Turtle Bay to build our PowerPoint:

Our current task is to build the exhibit with reclaimed lumber from the old visitor’s center and to complete the PowerPoint slides. We have filled in most of the slides with information, but we are currently sourcing the images and trying to contact their respective owners for explicit permission.

Luke: I am currently working to improve Turtle Bay’s beehive exhibit alongside my brother, Erick. My portion of the project is the construction of a ‘Bee Cam:’ a camera and mount set up to provide to the visitors a view of the outside entrance of the beehive. The mount will be made of steel tubing that will elevate, envelope, and house the camera. The purpose of the camera is to make the beehive exhibit more interesting by allowing the visitors to view bee behavior, whether usual or unusual, on the outside of the beehive.

Over many visits, visitors will be able to see several bee behaviors with the aid of the Bee Cam. They will see bees entering and leaving the hive to forage for food; bees guarding the entrance to the hive against intruders; ‘bearding’ behavior, in which bees make a layer of bees outside and around the hive entrance in order to cool the beehive, especially in the summer; ‘swarming’ behavior, in which a beehive splits into two and sends one half out, in a giant swarm of bees, to make a new beehive.

We hope to have this exhibit done in a few months, and we look forward to your feedback.

Luke and Erick Blankenberg

2 thoughts on “Turtle Bay’s Beehive gets new interactive features, thanks to volunteers!

  1. Thank you, Erick and Luke, for your contributions to our community! It is wonderful to see innovation, engineering, and a passion for learning entertwined in such a meaningful local project. Well done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s