Dustin Stephan

Dustin Stephan

Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Role: Creative Director, Producer, & Designer
Team Size: 5 (Daryl Choa, Min Pan, Weidi Tang, Jinyi Ye)
Duration: 15 Weeks
Platform: Physical Installation & Digital 3D environment [XR] / [MR]
Client: Children's Museum of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

First model draft

One Small Act was a collaboration between the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. The Museum has an initiative based on having children practice Qualities of Kindness. As part fo this initiative, they are retrofitting their current "Attic" exhibit Space into a new 1,200 square foot gallery loosely based on Fred Roger's Neighborhood and Kindness. The museum tasked my team to envision a new installation for this exhibit.


Playtesting with paper prototypes

As Creative Director and Producer for my team, I held the creative vision for the project while being a conduit of communication between the team and client. I also lent my expertise in design to shape the experience for guests.

Rendered Model of the Expereince

Although the museum initially wanted a Virtual Reality experience; with the target demographic being children 0 - 12 (really 5 - 8), we quickly determined that would not be a compelling experience especially given the directive from the client that the installation should spark dialogue between caregiver and child.

SketchUp Model

We wanted the experience to be communal, so landed on a Mixed Reality experience combing physical props with digital elements. The inspiration was based on the imagery of a stranger holding an umbrella to shelter someone from the rain. We used this as a starting off point and quickly imagined a scenario where sheltering animals from the rain would be a compelling experience for children.

Expereince mockup in the ETC

The installation will utilize a large oversized prop umbrella on a linear track that is matched 1:1 with a digital umbrella that the guest will control to enact qualities of kindness. Since we cannot control the entry and exit points of guests in the museum; The experience is non-linear, with a sunny day to rainy day cycle on a loop.

I facilitated the communication between the programmer and the fabricator at the museum to make sure installation will be seamless. I kept the production on track while carrying the creative vision and making sure all of the digital and physical elements fit our installation and the exhibit as a whole.

Prototype setup at the ETC with VR tracker attached to an umbrella

I procured the technology to playtest the experience using VR tracking hardware and short-throw projectors and utilized my design skills to create documentation showcasing all of the elements. I maintained the Google Drive, ran meetings, kept the budget and timeline in check, and developed all of the audio for the experience.

For information on the project, please visit the project website:
One Small Act