Dinosphere: A Day in the Life of a Paleontologist

Client: Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Date: August 23, 2017
Services: Interaction Design


Create an interactive experience for the Dinosphere exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis using guided play to enhance the overall understanding of the exhibit.

This project was part of a two-year master’s program at Ball State University.


Dinosphere is a permanent exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s museum, that transports visitors back more than 65 million years to the land of the dinosaurs. This exhibit features a sound and light experience that stimulates a day in the late Cretaceous period. It also allows visitors to perform fossil excavations in the Dig Site, view and touch real dinosaur fossils in the Paleo Prep Lab, talk with real paleontologists and interact with games and touch-screen learning activities.



Although Dinosphere is one of the most popular exhibits at the museum,  preliminary ethnographic research found that children engaged with the digital spaces much less than the physical spaces.


  1. How is technology best used in museums to promote learning?
  2. How might digital and physical spaces work together in museum exhibits to create a successful learning environment?


Research Phase

The research phase consisted of ethnographic research at Dinosphere, brainstorming sessions with children and museum staff, and semi-structured interviews with paleontology experts.

Design & Development

In the design and development phase, sketches were created and tested, revised based on usability and user experience feedback, and then transformed into three high-fidelity prototypes.

This project resulted in a prototype for an interactive learning experience that consists of three activities that each include a physical and digital component. This interactive experience is called “Dinosphere: A Day in the Life.” Museum visitors that choose to interact with this experience would create a paleo profile, earning badges toward becoming an “expert paleontologist” by completing the activities.

This experience is designed to create a more engaging digital experience, to generate more of a connection between physical and digital spaces and to enhance the overall experience of the Dinosphere. 


Participants begin the experience by creating a paleo profile on a handheld device provided by the museum, including first and last name and a photo. Upon completion, the participants’ complete profile will appear on the screen. This includes their information, paleo status and the different badges available to earn. Each activity allows for a different variety of badges to be earned, improving the paleo status of the participant. To begin an activity, the participant chooses one from the main menu.

1. Scene Selection

This activity works in combination with three areas of the Dinosphere exhibit — T. rex Attack, The Watering Hole and Scavenger vs. Predator.

Visitors  begin by reading the first story line, then tap the image of the scenario it matches with. If they choose the wrong scene, they will be prompted to try again. Once the correct scene is chosen, visitors have to answer three questions related to the scene. All answers can be found within the physical and digital spaces of scene. The same routine applies for all three exhibit scenes. When the activity is complete, visitors can see how many badges they earned as well as the total number of badges they have earned.

2. Missing Fossils

This activity works in combination with the Dig Pit.

Visitors begin this activity by searching in The Dig Pit for missing real fossils from Bucky the T. rex and Kelsey the Triceratops. Once they find a fossil, they will find the same fossil on the screen and tap it. The screen will show a skeleton outline of the dinosaur the particular fossil belongs to. Visitors tap the area on the skeleton where the fossil belongs. The idea of the activity is to find all of the missing fossils from Bucky and Kelsey. When the activity is complete, visitors can see how many badges they earned as well as the total number of badges they have earned.

3. Prepare and Compare

This activity works in combination with The Paleo Prep Lab.

Visitors begin this activity by removing the fossils on the lab table from their field jackets, then finding the same fossil on the lab tray on the screen. By tapping the fossil, they will be prompted to determine which species the fossil belongs to; human, bird or Triceratops. After choosing the correct species, the fossil must be placed correctly on the skeleton. When the activity is complete, visitors can see how many badges they earned as well as the total number of badges they have earned.

Once the visitor completes or opts out of the experience, a printed paleontology award will be available as a souvenir.