ACTION LAB, ECHO’s Newest Exhibit Space Opens Designed for Teens and Adults with Cutting Edge 3D Technology

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, will be celebrating the opening up its newest exhibit space, Action Lab Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..

ECHO’s new Action Lab exhibition, located on the top floor at ECHO will be open every day! What is an Action Lab and why create one? It is a space specifically designed to encourage and teach citizen science participation to teens and adults using a combination of state-of-the-art technology and hands-on experiments!

”ECHO’s decision to build this space has evolved over the past ten years. We listened to the community and we heard them say the same thing, they all want Lake Champlain to be a healthy resource for everyone, including all the animals and plants that call it home. The Action Lab allows the community to be engaged in making a positive difference in the health of the Lake. They will be able to fully understand all the Lake’s dynamics – from the origin of a blue-green algae bloom to the threats to the spiny softshell turtles that inhabit the Lake,” said ECHO Executive Director, Phelan Fretz.

Julie Silverman is ECHO’s Director of New and was the developer and construction manager for the Action Lab.

“What the new Action Lab allows us to do is to continually pioneer ways to engage our guests in local issues facing our community and the diverse breadth and beauty of the Lake Champlain Basin. By using cutting edge technology tools and ever-changing citizen science programs we are able to introduce dynamic ways our citizens can be involved in Lake stewardship,” said ECHO’s Director of New, Julie Silverman.


One of the goals for the Action Lab is to help visitors get involved. Action Lab connects people to what they are passionate about — boating, birding, hiking, gardening or fishing — with other people and scientists who share that passion. Using 3D technology, live-capture video, hi-speed and stop-action video playback, a guest-controlled turtle tracking camera, and a high-powered video microscope, Action Lab provides new ways of experiencing the world and the environment. The Action Lab space also includes areas where guests literally read the writing on the wall…and then write back thus encouraging conversation and participation.

The Action Lab space includes:

Shaping Watersheds, a 3D Projection Sandbox: This “sandbox for grown-ups” allows the visitor to build mountains, lakes, rivers and other landforms and make it “virtually” rain! Augmented reality is created using state-of-the-art 3D technology to illustrate how the landscape is connected by the water that flows over it.

Lake Expedition Station: This exhibit has two components both using visitor-controlled hi-speed video viewing (spin browser) technology. The Lake Voyage section provides visitors a first-person virtual tour — as fast or as slow as they want — of some of Lake Champlain’s most spectacular places such as the Ausable Chasm, Fort Montgomery, Fort Ticonderoga as well as see the underwater shipwreck, the General Butler, one of Burlington Bay’s four shipwrecks. The Lakefront Citizen Science Camera provides a real-time view of Lake Champlain and also the ability to analyze how the waterfront changes over time by viewing a year’s worth of weather, waves, wildlife, and boating captured and saved by a high resolution camera. Guests control the speed at which they watch the waterfront go by.

Tracking Turtles – Spiny Softshell Turtle Station: Here guests are invited to help ECHO’s Animal Care staff gather data on behavior and growth of the threatened spiny softshell turtles in our collection. Visitors learn how to identify the patterns unique to each individual turtle and fine-tune their abilities as a scientific observer. The Turtle-Cam, provides a one-of-a-kind view of these turtles to assist in observations and data collection.

Citizen Science Station: This station highlights the importance of observation skills and data collection techniques to science by introducing changing opportunities and programs dependent upon citizen observations. Here teens and adults will have access to new community-based tools and technology as well as guidance on ways to contribute to ongoing local, regional and national scientific research, all of which will assist the broader scientific community.

Science on the Move: A fleet of new rolling carts provide the flexibility of bringing experiments and eco-investigations to our guests within the new Action Lab space and beyond. Volunteers, ECHO educators, and teen E-Team members roll out changing topics including DNA extraction, macroinvertebrate indicators, and storm water solutions.

Construction on the new Action Lab began in earnest in January of this year and involved a steady crew of carpenters, plumbers, technicians and designers. It also involved strong collaboration with partners on a national level, from Portland, ME to Berkley, CA. Funding and creative support was provided by NSF through the LakeViz3D project, a collaboration of UC Davis KeckCAVES, UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, and Audience Viewpoints; U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Museum and Library Services; and locally from Edwin and Nancy Colodny.

“This is an exciting time in our history as we are just celebrating ECHO’s 10-year anniversary while at the same time unveiling a series of exhibits in the new Action Lab that would rival those found in larger institutions in major cities in the world,” said ECHO’s Executive Director Phelan Fretz.

To view a demonstration of the Shaping Watersheds 3D Projection Sandbox please go to this YouTube link: http://youtu.be/tJNYZl6s3c4

To learn more about this exhibit visit the webpage here: http://www.echovermont.org/exhibits/al.html

For more information call (toll-free) 1.877.324.6386 or visit www.echovermont.org.

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